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Culture and society, 1780-1950 

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RAYMONB WILLIAMS was bom in England in 1921 and 
educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where lie 
took First Class Honors in the English Tripos and 
gained his M.A. degree. Since 1946 he has been Staff 
Tutor in Literature, Oxford University Delegacy for 
Extra-Mural Studies. He has lectured in England for 
the British Council, has broadcast for the B.B.C. on 
Ibsen and the teaching of literature, and has published 
essays in several journals and periodicals. 

His books include Reading and Criticism (1950), 
Drama from Ibsen to Eliot ( 1952), and The Long Rev 
olution (1960). Culture and Society 1780-1950 was 
first published in 1958. 


Raymond Williams 

Anchor Books 

Doubleday & Company, Inc. 

Garden City, New York 






Anchor Book Edition, iggg, by arrangement with 
Columbia University Press 

Copyright 1958 by Raymond Williams 

All Rights Reserved 
Printed in the United States of America 


THE organizing principle of this book is the discovery that 
the idea of culture, and the word itself in its general modern 
uses, came into English thinMng in the period which we 
commonly describe as that of the Industrial Revolution. 
The book is an attempt to show how and why this hap 
pened, and to follow the idea through to our own day. It 
thus becomes an account and an interpretation of our re 
sponses in thought and feeling to the changes in English 
society since the late eighteenth century. Only in such a 
context can our use of the word 'culture', and the issues to 
which the word refers, be adequately understood. 

The book continues the enquiry which began with the 
founding of the review Politics and Letters, which I edited, 
with Mr Clifford Collins and Mr Wolf Mankowitz, between 
1946 and 1948. Our object then was to enquire into and 
where possible reinterpret this tradition which the word 
'culture' describes in terms of the experience of our own 
generation. I am permanently indebted to my former co- 
editors for what I learned with them in that first attempt. 
During the actual writing of the book, since 1950, I have 
again been particularly indebted to Mr Collins, and also to 
my colleague Mr Anthony McLean. I gained much benefit 
from discussing the work in progress with Humphry House 
and Francis Klingender, whose valuable work survives their 
early deaths. Others, among many who have helped me, 
whom I ought particularly to mention are Mr F. W. Bate- 
son, Mr E. F. BeUchambers, Mr Henry Collins, Mr S. J. 
Colman and Mr H. P. Smith. My wife has argued the 
manuscript with me, line by line, to an extent which, in 
certain chapters, makes her virtually the joint author. But 
I cannot finally involve anyone but myself, either in my 
judgements or in my errors. 

Because of the form of the book, I have not been able to 
include any detailed accounts of the changes in words and 
meanings to which I refer. I shall publish this supporting 



evidence, later, in -a specialist paper on Changes in English 
during the Industrial Revolution. The brief accounts given 
in my text are subject to the usual dangers of summary, 
and tibe reader primarily interested in the words themselves 
must be referred to the paper mentioned, which adds some 
new evidence to the existing authorities. 

While this book has been in the press I have been con 
sidering the directions in which further work in its field 
might profitably move, and it may be useful to note these. 
It seems to me, first, that we are arriving, from various 
directions, at a point where a new general theory of culture 
might in fact be achieved. In this book I have sought to 
clarify the tradition, but it may be possible to go on from 
this to a full restatement of principles, taking the theory of 
culture as a theory of relations between elements in a whole 
way of life. We need also, in these terms, to examine the 
idea of an expanding culture, and its detailed processes. 
For we live in an expanding culture, yet we spend much of 
our energy regretting the fact, rather than seeking to under 
stand its nature and conditions. I think a good deal of fac 
tual revision of our received cultural history is necessary 
and urgent, in such matters as literacy, educational levels, 
and the press. We also need detailed studies of the social 
and economic problems of current cultural expansion, as 
means towards an adequate common policy. Finally, in the 
special field of criticism, we may be able to extend our 
methods of analysis, in relation to the re-definitions of crea 
tive activity and communication which various kinds of 
investigation are making possible. All this work will be diffi 
cult, but it may be helped by an understanding of the 
context of our present vocabulary in these matters, to which 
this book is offered as a contribution. 

Parts of the book have previously appeared, in other 
foims, in Essays in Criticism and Universities and Left 

R. w. 





The Key Words 'Industry', 'Democracy', 

'Class', 'Art', 'Culture'. 




i. Edmund Burke and William Cobbett 3 

ii. Robert Southey and Robert Owen 22 





Mary Barton and North and South, Mrs Gas- 
keli; Hard Times, Dickens; Sybil, Disraeli; Al 
ton Locke, Kingsley; Felix Holt, George Eliot 



A. W. Pugin, John Ruskin, William Morris 


i. W. H. Mallock 174 

ii. The 'New Aesthetics' 178 

iii. George Gissing 185 

iv. Shaw and Fabianism 193 

v. Critics of the State 200 

vi. T. E. Hulme 205 





2, R. H. TAWNEY ^S 3 - 

3 T. S. ELIOT 243 


i. I A. Richards 

ii. F. R. Leavis 270 





INDEX 375 


The dates given are those in which the 
writers discussed were aged 25 

Edmund Burke i/54 

Jeremy Bentham 1773 

William Blake 1782 

William Cobbett 1787 

William Wordsworth 1795 

Robert Owen 179 

S. T. Coleridge 1797 

Robert Southey 1799 

Lord Byron 1813 

P. B. Shelley 1817 

Thomas Arnold f i&w 

John Keats \ 1820 

Thomas Carlyle 1 1820 

J. EL Newman 1826 

Benjamin Disraeli 1829 

F. D. Maurice 1830 

John Stuart Mill 1831 

Elizabeth Gaskel 1835 

A. W. Pugin f 1837 

Charles Dickens 1 1837 

JohnHuskin ["1844 

George Eliot 4 1844 

Charles Kingsley [ 1844 

Matthew Arnold 1847 

William Morris f 1859 

J, A, McN. Whistler "1 1859 

Walter Pater 1864 

W. H, Mallock 1874 

Bernard Shaw / 1881 

Oscar Wilde 1 1881 

George Gissing 1882 

Hflaire Befloc 1895 


R. H. Tawney 1905 

T. E. Hulme 1908 

D. H. Lawrence 1910 

T. S. Eliot 1913 

I. A. Richards 1918 

F. R. Leavis 1920 

George Orwell 1928 

Christopher Caudwell 193:2 


IN the last decades of the eighteenth century., and in the 
first half of the nineteenth century, a number of words, 
which are now of capital importance, came for the first 
time into common English use, or, where they had already 
been generally used in the language, acquired new and 
important meanings. There is in fact a general pattern of 
change in these words, and this can be used as a special 
kind of map by which it is possible to look again at those 
wider changes in life and thought to which the changes in 
language evidently refer. 

Five words are the key points from which this map can 
be drawn. They are industry, democracy, class, art and 
culture. The importance of these words, in our modern 
structure of meanings, is obvious. The changes in their use, 
at this critical period, bear witness to a general change in 
our characteristic ways of thinking about our common life: 
about our social, political and economic institutions; about 
the purposes which these institutions are designed to em 
body; and about the relations to these institutions and pur 
poses of our activities in learning, education and the arts. 

The first important word is industry, and the period in 
which its use changes is the period which we now cal the 
Industrial Revolution. Industry, before this period, was a 
name for a particular human attribute, which could be 
paraphrased as 'skill, assiduity, perseverance, diligence*. 
This use of industry of course survives. But, in the last 
decades of the eighteenth century, industry came also to 
mean something else; it became a collective word for our 
manufacturing and productive institutions, and for their 
general activities. Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations 
(3,776), is one of the first writers to use the word in this 
way, and from his time the development of this use is as 
sured. Industry, with a capital letter, is thought of as a 
thing in itself an institution, a body of activities rather 
than simply a human attribute. Industrious, which de- 


scribed persons, is joined, in the nineteenth century, by in- 
dustfialy which describes the institutions. The rapid growth 
in importance of these institutions is seen as creating a new 
system, which in the 18303 is first called Industrialism. In 
part, this is the acknowledgement of a series of very im 
portant technical changes, and of their transforming effect 
on methods of production. It is also, however, an acknowl 
edgement of the effect of these changes on society as a 
whole, which is similarly transformed. The phrase Indus 
trial Revolution amply confirms this, for the phrase, first 
used by French writers in the 18203, and gradually 
adopted, in the course of the century, by English writers, 
is modeled explicitly on an analogy with the French Revo 
lution of 1789. As that had transformed France, so this has 
transformed England; the means of change are different, 
but the change is comparable in kind: it has produced, by 
a pattern of change, a new society. 

The second important word is democracy, which had 
been known, from the Greek, as a term for 'government by 
the people', but which only came into common English use 
at the time of the American and French Revolutions. 
WeeHey, in Words Ancient and Modern, writes: 

It was not until the French Revolution tihat democracy 
ceased to be a mere literary word, and became part of 
the political vocabulary. 1 

In this he is substantially right. Certainly, it is in reference 
to America and France that the examples begin to multiply, 
at the end of the eighteenth century, and it is worth noting 
that the great majority of these examples show the word 
being used unfavourably: in close relation with the hated 
Jacobinism, or with the familiar mob-rule. England may 
have been (the word has so many modern definitions) a 
democracy since Magna Carta, or since the Common 
wealth, or since 1688, but it certainly did not call itself one. 
Democrats, at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning 
of the nineteenth centuries, were seen, commonly, as dan 
gerous and subversive mob agitators. Just as industry and 
its derived words record what we now call the Industrial 
Revolution, so democracy and democrat, in their entry into 


ordinary speech, record the effects, in England, of the 
American and French Revolutions, and a crucial phase of 
the straggle, at home, for what we would now call demo 
cratic representation. 

Industry, to indicate an institution, begins in about 1776; 
democracy, as a practical word, can be dated from about 
the same time. The third word, class, can be dated, in its 
most important modern sense, from about 1772. Before this, 
the ordinary use of class, in English, was to refer to a divi 
sion or group in schools and colleges: 'the usual Classes in 
Logick and Philosophy*, It is only at the end of the eight 
eenth century that the modern structure of elms, in its social 
sense, begins to be built up. First comes lower classes, to 
join lower orders, which appears earlier in the eighteenth 
century. Then, in the 17903, we get higher dosses; middle 
classes and middling classes follow at once; working classes 
in about 1815; upper classes in tihe i8aos. Class prejudice, 
class legislation, class consciousness, class conflict and class 
war follow in the course of the nineteenth century. The 
upper middle classes are first heard of in the 18908; the 
lower middle class in our own century. 

It is obvious, of course, that this spectacular history of 
tibe new use of class does not indicate the beginning of social 
divisions in England. But it indicates, quite clearly, a 
change in tibe character of these divisions, and it records, 
equally clearly, a change in attitudes towards them. Class 
is a more indefinite word than rank, and this was probably 
one of the reasons for its introduction. The structure then 
built on it is in nineteenth-century terms: in terms, that is 
to say, of the changed social structure, and the changed 
social feelings, of an England which was passing through 
the Industrial Revolution, and which was at a crucial phase 
in the development of political democracy. 

The fourth word, art, is remarkably similar, in its pattern 
of change, to industry. From its original sense of a human 
attribute, a 'skill', it had come, by the period with, which 
we are concerned, to be a Mnd of institution, a set body of 
activities of a certain kind. An art had formerly been any 
human skill; but Art, now, signified a particular group of 
skills, th 'imaginative* or 'creative* arts. Artist had meant 


a skilled person, as had artisan; but artist now referred to 
these selected skills alone. Further, and most significantly, 
Art came to stand for a special kind of truth, 'imaginative 
truth*, and artist for a special kind of person, as the words 
artistic and artistical, to describe human beings, new in the 
18403, show. A new name, aesthetics, was found to describe 
the judgement of art, and this, in its turn, produced a name 
for a special kind of person aesthete. The arts literature, 
music, painting, sculpture, theatre were grouped together, 
in this new phrase, as having something essentially in com 
mon which distinguished them from other human skills. 
The same separation as had grown up between artist and 
artisan grew up between artist and craftsman. Genius, from 
meaning 'a characteristic disposition', came to mean 'exalted 
ability', and a distinction was made between it and talent. 
As art had produced artist in the new sense, and aesthetics 
aesthete, so this produced a genius, to indicate a special 
land of person. These changes, which belong in time to the 
period of the other changes discussed, form a record of a 
remarkable change in ideas of the nature and purpose of 
art, and of its relations to other human activities and to 
society as a whole. 

The fifth, word, culture, similarly changes, in the same 
critical period. Before this period, it had meant, primarily, 
the 'tending of natural growth', and then, by analogy, a 
process of human training. But this latter use, which had 
usually been a culture of something, was changed, in the 
nineteenth century, to culture as such, a thing in itself. It 
came to mean, first, 'a general state or habit of the mind', 
having close relations with the idea of human perfection. 
Second, it came to mean 'the general state of intellectual 
development, in a society as a whole'. Third, it came to 
mean 'the general body of the arts'. Fourth, later in the 
century, it came to mean *a whole way of life, material, 
intellectual and spiritual'. It came also, as we know, to 
be a word which often provoked either hostility or em 

The development of culture is perhaps the most striking 
among all the words named. It might be said, indeed, that 
the questions now concentrated in the meanings of the word 


culture are questions directly raised by the great historical 
changes which the changes in industry, democracy and 
class, m their own way, represent, and to which the changes 
in art are a closely related response. The development of 
the word culture is a record of a number of important and 
continuing reactions to these changes in our social, eco 
nomic and political life, and may be seen, in itself, as a 
special kind of map by means of which the nature of the 
changes can be explored. 

I have stated, briefly, the fact of the changes in these 
important words. As a background to them I must also 
draw attention to a number of other words which are either 
new, or acquired new meanings, in this decisive period. 
Among the new words, for example, there are ideology, 
intellectual, rationalism, scientist, humanitarian, utilitarian, 
romanticism, atomistic; bureaucracy, capitalism, collectiv 
ism, commercialism, communism, doctrinaire, equalitarian, 
liberalism, masses, mediaeval and mediaevalism, operative 
(noun), primitivism, proletariat (a new word for *mob'), 
socialism, unemployment; cranks, highbrow, isms and pre 
tentious. Among words which then acquired their .now 
normal modern meanings are business ( = trade) , common 
( = vulgar) , earnest (derisive) , Education and educational, 
getting-on, handmade, idealist ( = visionary) , Progress, 
rank-and-file (other than military), reformer and reform 
ism, revolutionary and revolutionize, salary (as opposed to 
'wages') , Science ( = natural and physical sciences) , specu 
lator (financial), solidarity, strike and suburban (as a de 
scription of attitudes) . The field which these changes cover 
is again a field of general change, introducing many ele 
ments which we now point to as distinctively modern in 
situation and feeling. It is the relations within this general 
pattern of change which it will be my particular task to 

The word which more than any other comprises these 
relations is culture, with all its complexity of idea and ref 
erence. My over-all purpose in the book is to describe and 
analyse this complex, and to give an account of its historical 
formation. Because of its very range of reference, it is nec 
essary, however, to set the enquiry from the beginning on a 


wide basis. I had originally intended to keep very closely to 
culture itself, but, the more closely I examined it, the more 
widely my terms of reference had to be set. For what I see 
in the history of this word, in its structure of meanings, is a 
wide and general movement in thought and feeling. I shall 
hope to show this movement in detail. In summary, I wish 
to show the emergence of culture as an abstraction and an 
absolute: an emergence which, in a very complex way, 
merges two general responses first, the recognition of the 
practical separation of certain moral and intellectual activi 
ties from the driven impetus of a new kind of society; sec 
ond, the emphasis of these activities, as a court of human 
appeal, to be set over the processes of practical social judge 
ment and yet to offer itself as a mitigating and rallying 
alternative. But, in both these senses, culture was not a 
response to the new methods of production, the new In- 
dustvy, alone. It was concerned, beyond these, with the 
new kinds of personal and social relationship: again, both 
as a recognition of practical separation and as an emphasis 
of alternatives. The idea of culture would be simpler if it 
had been a response to industrialism alone, but it was also, 
quite evidently, a response to the new political and social 
developments, to Democracy. Again, in relation to this, it 
is a complex and radical response to the new problems of 
social class. Further, while these responses define bearings, 
in a given external area that was surveyed, there is also, in 
the formation of the meanings of culture, an evident refer 
ence back to an area of personal and apparently private 
experience, which was notably to affect the meaning and 
practice of art. These are the first stages of the formulation 
of the idea of culture, but its historical development is at 
least as important. For the recognition of a separate body 
of moral and intellectual activities, and the offering of a 
court of human appeal, which comprise the early meanings 
of the word, are joined, and in themselves changed, by the 
growing assertion of a whole way of lif e, not only as a scale 
of integrity, but as a mode of interpreting all our common 
experience, and, in this new interpretation, changing it. 
Where culture meant a state or habit of the mind, or the 
body of intellectual and moral activities, it means now, also, 


a whole way of life. This development, like each of the 
original meanings and the relations between them, is not 
accidental, but general and deeply significant. 

My terms of reference then are not only to distinguish 
the meanings, but to relate them to their sources and effects. 
I shall try to do this by examining, not a series of abstracted 
problems, but a series of statements by individuals. It is not 
only that, by temperament and training, I find more mean 
ing in this kind of personally verified statement than in a 
system of significant abstractions. It is also that, in a theme 
of this kind, I feel myself committed to the study of actual 
language: that is to say, to the words and sequences of 
words which particular men and women have used in try 
ing to give meaning to their experience. It is true that I 
shall be particularly interested in the general developments 
of meaning in language, and these, always, are more than 
personal. But, as a method of enquiry, I have not chosen 
to list certain topics, and to assemble summaries of par 
ticular statements on them. I have, rather, with only oc 
casional exceptions, concentrated on particular thinkers and 
their actual statements, and tried to understand and value 
them. The framework of the enquiry is general, but the 
method, in detail, is the study of actual individual state 
ments and contributions. 

In my First Part, I consider a number of nineteenth- 
century thinkers, of whom many if not all will be familiar to 
the informed reader, but whose relations, and even whose 
individual meanings, may be seen from this standpoint in a 
somewhat different light. I consider next, and more briefly, 
certain writers at the turn of the nineteenth into the twen 
tieth century, who form, as I see them, a particular kind of 
interregnum. Then, in my Third Part, I consider some 
writers and thinkers of our own century, in an attempt to 
make the structure of meanings, and the common language 
in these matters, fully contemporary. Finally, in my Con 
clusion, I offer my own statement on an aspect of this com 
mon experience: not indeed as a verdict on the tradition, 
but as an attempt to extend it in the direction of certain 
meanings and values. 

The area of experience to which the book refers has 


produced its own difficulties in terms o method. These, 
however, will be better appreciated, and judged, in the 
actual course of the enquiry. I ought perhaps to say that I 
expect the book to be controversial: not that I have written 
it for the sake of controversy as such, but because any such 
enquiry involves the discussion and the proposition of val 
ues, which are quite properly the subject of difference, and 
which affect even what we are in the habit of calling the 
known facts. I shall, at any rate, be glad to be answered, in 
whatever terms, for I am enquiring into our common lan 
guage, on matters of common interest, and when we con 
sider how matters now stand, our continuing interest and 
language could hardly be too lively. 





THE mood of England in the Industrial Revolution is a 
mood of contrasts. The title, Contrasts, which JPugin was 
to make famous, epitomizes the habit of thinking of the 
early industrial generations. We can properly begin our own 
study by an essay in contrasts between lastingly influential 
men and ideas. My first contrast is between Edmund Burke 
and William Cobbett; my second between Robert Southey 
and Robert Owen. 

i. Edmund Burke and William Cobbett 

Edmund Burke has been called "the first modern Con 
servative'; William Cobbett *the first great tribune of the 
industrial proletariat'. Yet Cobbett began his political career 
in England under the patronage of William Windham, an 
intimate friend of Burke, and one who made Burke's prin 
ciples his standard in politics. It was Windham, consciously 
the political heir of Burke, who welcomed back from the 
United States, in 1800, the famous young anti-Jacobin 
pamphleteer, William Cobbett. It was with money raised 
by Windham that Cobbett started publication of his famous 
Political Register, which became, and till Cobbett's death 
in 1835 continued, the most influential Radical publication 
in the land. The fierce young anti-Jacobin died a great 
Radical, who had been hunted to courtroom and prison, on 
charges of sedition, by others of the political heirs of Burke. 
But the association of Burke and Cobbett, through Wind- 
ham, serves as an introduction to the more important as 
sociation, which we should now make. In the convulsion 
of England by the struggle for political democracy and by 
the progress of the Industrial Revolution, many voices were 
raised in condemnation of the new developments, in the 
terms and accents of an older England. Of all these, two 


have survived as the most important: Burke and Cobbett. 
In spite of their great differences, this fact prevails. They 
attacked the new England from their experience of the old 
England, and, from their work, traditions of criticism of the 
new democracy and the new industrialism were powerfully 
begun: traditions which in the middle of the twentieth cen 
tury are still active and important. 

Burke's attack was upon democracy, as we now com 
monly understand it. The event which drew his fire was the 
Revolution in France, but his concern was not only with 
France; it was, perhaps primarily, with the running of a 
similar tide in England. He did not believe that this could 
be kept back, but his stand was none the less firm: 

You see, my dear Lord, that I do not go upon any dif 
ference concerning the best method of preventing the 
growth of a system which I believe we dislike in com 
mon. I cannot differ with you because I do not think 
any method can prevent it. The evil has happened; the 
thing is done in principle and in example; and we must 
wait the good pleasure of an Higher Hand than ours 
for the time of its perfect accomplishment in practice 
in this country and elsewhere. All I have done for some 
time past, and all I shall do hereafter, will only be to 
clear myself from having any hand, actively or pas 
sively, in this great change. 1 

Now that the change has happened, or is supposed to have 
happened, a man in such a position is evidently isolated. 
The confutation of Burke on the French Revolution is now 
a one-finger exercise in politics and history. We check the 
boiling by pouring in cold water. His writings on France 
are annotated as I have seen the story of the Creation in a 
Bible in a railway waiting-room: lustorically untrue'. This 
sort of thing is indeed so easy that we may be in danger of 
missing a more general point, which has to do less with his 
condemnations than with his attachments, and less with his 
position than with his manner of thinking. The quality of 
Burke is the quality indicated by Matthew Arnold, in Ms 
comment on him in The Function of Criticism a& the Present 


Almost alone in England, he brings thought to bear 
upon politics, he saturates politics with thought. 2 

Arnold himself is one of the political heirs of Burke, but 
again this is less important than the kind of thinking which 
Arnold indicates by the verb 'saturates'. It is not 'thought* 
in the common opposition to 'feeling'; it is, rather, a special 
immediacy of experience, which works itself out, in depth, 
to a particular embodiment of ideas that become, in them 
selves, the whole man. The correctness of these ideas is not 
at first in question; and their truth is not, at first, to be 
assessed by their usefulness in historical understanding or 
in political insight. Burke's writing is an articulated experi 
ence, and as such it has a validity which can survive even 
the demolition of its general conclusions. It is not that the 
eloquence survives where the cause has failed; the elo 
quence, if it were merely the veneer of a cause, would now 
be worthless. What survives is an experience, a particular 
kind of learning; the writing is important only to the extent 
that it communicates this. It is, finally, a personal experience 
become a landmark. 

My point can be illustrated in one very simple way. In 
politics Burke is, above all, the great recommender of pru 
dence as the primary virtue of civil government. We know 
this; we receive it as an idea. Burke's formal opponents, 
knowing it, think they can destroy him when they can set 
against the principle such a sentence as this, from the 
tribute of a great admirer: 

His abilities were supernatural, and a deficiency of pru 
dence and political wisdom alone could have kept him 
within the rank of mortals. 3 

As we look, now, at Burke's political career, we confirm the 
estimate of deficiency. Common prudence was lacking at 
one crisis after another, and his political wisdom, in the 
practical sense, was halting or negligible. Yet this does not 
affect his estimate of political virtue. Burke is one of that 
company of men who learn virtue from the margin of their 
errors, learn folly from their own persons. It is at least ar- 


guable that this is the most important kind of learning. 
Burke says of the leaders of the National Assembly: 

Their purpose everywhere seems to have "been to evade 
and slip aside from difficulty. This it has been the glory 
of the great masters in aU the arts to confront and to 
overcome; and when they had overcome the first diffi 
culty, to turn it into an instrument for new conquests 
over new difficulties; thus to enable them to extend 
the empire of their science; and even to push forward, 
beyond the reach of their original thoughts, the land 
marks of the human understanding itself. Difficulty is 
a severe instructor, set over us by the supreme ordi 
nance of a parental guardian and legislator, who 
knows us better than we know ourselves, as he loves us 
better too. . . . He that wrestles with us strengthens 
our nerves, and sharpens our sldll. Our antagonist is our 
helper. This amicable conflict with difficulty obliges us 
to an intimate acquaintance with our object, and com 
pels us to consider it in all its relations. It will not suffer 
us to be superficial It is the want of nerves of under 
standing for such a task, it is the degenerate fondness 
for tricking short-cuts, and little fallacious facilities, 
that has in so many parts of the world created govern 
ments with arbitrary powers. 4 

The truth of this can be generally attested, and the wres 
tling is not less important, nor less fruitful, when under the 
shadow of general difficulty a man's antagonist is in certain 
aspects himself. Moreover, the connexion between the 
quality of this process in individuals and the quality of civil 
society is major and indisputable. We do not need to share 
Buxke's support of the Bourbons against the Assembly to 
realize the authority of this: 

If circumspection and caution are a part of wisdom, 
when we work only upon inanimate matter, surely they 
become a part of duty too, when the subject of our 
demolition and construction is not brick and timber, 
but sentient beings, by the sudden alteration of whose 
state, condition, and habits, multitudes may be ren- 


dered miserable. . . . The true lawgiver ought to 
have a heart full of sensibility. He ought to love and re 
spect his kind, and to fear himself. It may be allowed 
to his temperament to catch his ultimate object with 
an intuitive glance; but his movements towards it 
ought to be deliberate. Political arrangement, as it is a 
work for social ends, is to be only wrought by social 
means. There mind must conspire with mind. ... If 
I might venture to appeal to what is so much out of 
fashion in Paris, I mean to experience, I should tell 
you that in my course I have known and, according to 
my measure, have cooperated with great men; and I 
have never yet seen any plan which has not been 
mended by the observations of those who were much 
inferior in understanding to the person who took the 
lead in the business. By a slow but well-sustained 
progress, the effect of each step is watched; the good 
or ill success of the first gives light to us in the second; 
and so, from light to light, we are conducted with 
safety through the whole series. We see that the parts 
of the system do not clash. The evils latent in the 
most promising contrivances are provided for as they 
arise. One advantage is as little as possible sacrificed 
to another. We compensate, we reconcile, we balance. 5 

Nothing is more foolish than to suppose, as reformers of 
many kinds have done, that this is merely a recommenda 
tion of conservatism. It is equally foolish for conservatives 
to suppose that such conclusions are any kind of argument 
against the most radical social reform. Burke is describing 
a process, based on a recognition of the necessary complex 
ity and difficulty of human affairs, and formulating itself, in 
consequence, as an essentially social and cooperative effort 
in control and reform. No particular policy can dispense 
with such recognitions; no description of policy, by a 
'tricking short-cuf, can arrogate them to itself. 

Yet when this has been said, the direction of effort, the 
decision of what is necessary, remain to be discussed. Here, 
Burke belongs most certainly to what Arnold called an 
'epoch of concentration'. It is not true to say that he resisted 


all reform, but his heaviest fire is reserved for all schemes 
of wholesale innovation or radical reconstruction: 

Reform is not a change in the substance or in the pri 
mary modification of the object, but a direct applica 
tion of a remedy to the grievance complained of. 6 

Politics is a business of practical expediency, not of theoret 
ical ideas. His comment on the unfortunate Dr Price can 
stand as a general comment on the whole philosophical and 
literary tradition which was promoting social change: 

Wholly unacquainted with the world in which they are 
so fond of meddling, and inexperienced in all its affairs, 
on which they pronounce with so much confidence, 
they have nothing of politics but the passions they 
excite. 1 

The point has been echoed by thousands of lesser men, and 
is now a commonplace of diatribe, yet the criticism con 
tained in the last clause keeps its force, and might even be 
applied to Burke himself. Even where the value of a tradi 
tion of thought in politics is most certainly to be acclaimed, 
this observation is not to be forgotten as an important lim 
iting clause. 

Burke served the causes of his day, and in particular the 
cause of opposition to democracy. He argued that the 
tendency of democracy was to tyranny, and he observed, 
further, that 

those who are subjected to wrong under multitudes are 
deprived of all external consolation. They seem de 
serted by mankind, overpowered by a conspiracy of 
their whole species. 8 

This again is an observation from experience. It did not 
need complete democracy for its realization; it was, in the 
bad times, Burke's own feeling about himself, under the 
sway of a majority opinion that was against him. This is 
not to deny that the observation about democracy may be 
reasonable. Yet, as the argument has gone since Burke's 
day, his position has come to seem paradoxical. It is com 
monly argued, in this kind of criticism of democracy, that 



the Individual Is oppressed by the mass, and that, generally 
speaking, virtues are individual in origin and are threatened 

by mass society. Burke had no experience of anything that 
could be called a mass society, but he could not in any 
case have accepted such an argument. His position, quite 
unequivocally, is that man as an individual left to himself 
Is wicked; all human virtue is the creation of society, and 
Is In this sense not 'natural' but 'artificial': 'art is man's na 
ture'. The embodiment and guarantee of the proper human 
ity of man Is the historical community. The rights of man 
Include the right to be restrained: 

Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to pro 
vide for human wants. . . . Among these wants is to 
be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a suffi 
cient restraint upon their passions. Society requires not 
only that the passions of Individuals should be sub 
jected, but that even in the mass and body, as well as 
in the Individuals, the Inclinations of men should fre 
quently be thwarted, their will controlled, and tneir 
passions brought into subjection. This can only be done 
by a power out of themselves; and not, In the exercise 
of its function, subject to that will and to those pas 
sions which it is its office to bridle and subdue. In this 
sense the restraints on men, as well as their liberties, 
are to be reckoned among their rights. 9 

In so far as democracy Is a system which enables individ 
uals to decide how they should govern themselves (this is 
not its only definition, but it was a common one, In associa 
tion with doctrines of economic individualism, when Burke 
was writing), this is a substantial criticism. As Burke 
says, in opposition to a main tenor of eighteenth-century 

We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his 
own private stock of reason; because we suspect that 
the stock In each man is small, and that the individuals 
would do better to avail themselves of the general bank 
and capital of nations and of ages. 10 


Seventy years later, this was to be the basis of Matthew 
Arnold's recommendation of Culture. 

In opposition to the ideas of individualist democracy, 
Burke set the idea of a People: 

In a state of rude nature there is no such thing as a 
people. A number of men in themselves have no collec 
tive capacity. The idea of a people is the idea of a cor 
poration. It is wholly artificial; and made, like all other 
legal fictions, by common agreement. What the par 
ticular nature of that agreement was, is collected from 
the form into which the particular society has been 
cast. 11 

The whole progress of man is thus dependent, not only on 
the historical community in an abstract sense, but on the 
nature of the particular community into which he has been 
born. No man can abstract himself from this; nor is it his 
alone to change: 

Society is indeed a contract. Subordinate contracts for 
objects of mere occasional interest may be dissolved at 
pleasure but the state ought not to be considered 

nothing better than a partnership agreement in a trade 
of pepper and coffee, calico or tobacco, or some other 
such low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary 
interest, and to be dissolved by die fancy of the parties. 
It is to be looked on with other reverence; because it 
is not a partnership in things subservient only to the 
gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable 
nature. It is a partnership in al science; a partnership 
in all arts; a partnership in every virtue, and in al per 
fection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be 
obtained in many generations, it becomes a partner 
ship not only between those who are living, but be 
tween those who are living, those who are dead, and 
those who are to be born, 12 

It can now be observed that Burke shifts, in this argument, 
from society to state, and that the essential reverence for 
society is not to be confused, as Burke seems to confuse it, 
with hat particular form of society which is the State at 



any given time. The observation is important, but Burke 
would not have been impressed by it. In his view, there 
was nothing in any way accidental about any particular 
form; the idea of society was only available to men in the 
form in which they had inherited it. Moreover, the progress 
of human society was *the known march of the ordinary 
providence of God'; the inherited form was divine in origin 
and guidance, the instrument of God's will that man should 
become perfect; 

Without . . . civil society man could not by any pos 
sibility arrive at the perfection of which his nature is 
capable, nor even make a remote and faint approach 
to it. ... He who gave our nature to be perfected 
by our virtue, willed also the necessary means of its 
perfectionHe willed therefore the state He willed its 
connexion with the source and original archetype of all 
perfection. 18 

The difficulty about this position, of course, comes when 
the State form changes, as it had done in France, and yet 
is considered, in its new form, as a destroyer of civil society. 
If the creation of State forms is 'the known march of the 
ordinary providence of God', then even the great changes 
which Burke was resisting might be beyond human control. 
He recognized this himself, late in his life, although the 
recognition did not modify his resistance: 

They who persist in opposing this mighty current in 
human affairs will appear rather to resist the decrees of 
Providence itself, tiban the mere designs of men. 14 

The difficulty serves to illustrate once again Burke's period. 
His doctrines rest on an experience of stability, containing 
imperfections, but not essentially threatened. As the current 
of change swelled, the affirmation became a desperate de 
fence. And even while Burke was writing, the great tide 
of economic change was flowing strongly, carrying with it 
many of the political changes against which he was con 
cerned to argue. He speaks from the relative stability of the 
eighteenth century against the first signs of the flux and 
confusion of the nineteenth century, but he speaks also 


against those rising doctrines which the eighteenth century 
tad produced, and which were to become the characteristic 
philosophy of the change itself. In doing so, he prepared a 
position in the English mind from which the march of in 
dustrialism and liberalism was to be continually attacked. 
He established the idea of the State as the necessary agent 
of human perfection, and in terms of this idea the aggres 
sive individualism of the nineteenth century was bound to 
be condemned. He established, further, the idea of what 
tas been caled an 'organic society', where the emphasis is 
on the interrelation and continuity of human activities, 
ratter than on separation into spheres of interest, each gov 
erned by its own laws. 

A nation is not an idea only of local extent, and in 
dividual momentary aggregation; but it is an idea of 
continuity, which extends in time as well as in numbers 
and in space. And this is a choice not of one day, or 
one set of people, not a tumultuary and giddy choice; 
it is a deliberate election of the ages and of generations; 
it is a constitution made by what is ten thousand times 
better than choice, it is made by the peculiar circum 
stances, occasions, tempers, dispositions, and moral, 
civil, and social habitudes of the people, which disclose 
themselves only in a long space of time, 15 

Immediately after Burke, this complex which he describes 
was to be called the 'spirit of the nation"; by the end of the 
nineteenth century, it was to be caled a national 'culture'. 
Examination of the influence and development of these 
ideas belongs to my later chapters. It is sufficient to note 
here Burke's own definitions. It is in these terms that Burke 
tas lasted, but the survival involves a separation of these 
ideas from the rest of Burke's statement. We see him, now, 
when we see him as a whole, crippled by many kinds of 
imsrinderstanding. We set his polemics against the subse 
quent loiown march*. He seems to us blind to many of the 
changes which, ven as he wrote, were transfonning Eng 
land. How else, we ask, could he have written, in the mid 
dle of a sixty-year period which saw 3,209 Acts of Enclo 
sure of traditional common land, such a sentence as thisP: 


The tenant-right of a cabbage-garden, a year's interest 
in a hovel, the goodwill of an alehouse or a baker's 
shop, the very shadow of a constructive property, are 
more ceremoniously treated in our parliament, than 
with you the oldest and most valuable landed pos 
sessions. 16 

Of all English thinkers, Burke should have recognized most 
clearly the common ownership, through custom and pre 
scription, of these four million acres that Parliament di 
verted into private hands. The point is not one of polemic 
against Burke; it is, rather, an indication of the flux of his 
tory and judgement. The 'organic society', with which 
Burke's name was to be associated, was being broken up 
under his eyes by new economic forces, while he protested 
elsewhere. The epitaph on all his polemic is this, in his own 
brilliant judgement: 

Wise men will apply their remedies to vices, not to 
names; to the causes of evil which are permanent, not 
to the occasional organs by which they act, and the 
transitory modes in which they appear. Otherwise you 
will be wise historically, a fool in practice. Seldom 
have two ages the same fashion in their pretexts and 
the same modes of mischief. Wickedness is a little 
more inventive. ... It walks 1 abroad, it continues its 
ravages, whilst you are gibbeting the carcase, or de 
molishing the tomb. You are terrifying yourselves with 
ghosts and apparitions, whilst your house is the haunt 
of robbers. 17 

The vigour of the insight serves only to underline the irony, 
when applied to Burke himself. 

It is here, I tihink, that Cobbett is so relevant. Cobbett 
was sufficiently younger than Burke to live through the Na 
poleonic Wars and their aftermath, and to see the first 
effects in country and town of the whole complex of changes 
which we call the Industrial Revolution. He had nothing of 
Buprke's depth of mind, but he had what in so confused a 
time was at least as important, an extraordinary sureness 
of instinct. There is more in common between Cobbett the 

14 CnDX-TUBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

anti- Jacobin and Cobbett the Radical than is usually sup 
posed; there is the same arrogance, the same crudeness, 
the same appetite for a class of men that he could hate. 
Divested of his sureness of instinct, Cobbett is, in large 
measure, the type of the very worst kind of popular jour 
nalist. There have indeed been, since his day, a thousand 
petty Cobbetts, imitating the vices of the position and 
lacking the virtues. The fact serves to show, not only the 
continuity, but Cobbett's quality; for the sureness of instinct 
was no accident it was, rather, vital and impregnable, a 
genuine embodiment of value. 

*Wise men will apply their remedies to vices, not to 
names'; this, essentially, is tie motto for Cobbett, and he 
was even helped in his wisdom, at this particularly confus 
ing time, by his relative indifference to ideas. He could 
thunder, with Burke, against 

a Multitude of Horrid Barbarity, such as the eye never 
witnessed, the tongue never expressed, or the imagina 
tion conceived, until the commencement of the French 
Revolution, 18 

He could congratulate himself, on leaving the United States 
in 1800, on returning to his 

native land, where neither the moth of Democracy nor 
the rust of Federalism doth corrupt. 10 

But when he saw the condition of England, and in this in 
stance the hiring out of pauper labour, he did not refer 
his reaction to any fixed categories, or fear the calling of 

Aye! you may wince; you may cry Jacobin and Level 
ler as long as you please. I wish to see the poor men 
of England what the poor men of England were when 
I was bom; and from endeavouring to accomplish this 
wish, nothing but the want of the means shall make 
me desist. 20 

He saw, and understood, the changes in the countryside: 
The taxing and funding , . . system has * . . drawn 


the real property o the nation into fewer hands; it has 
made land and agriculture objects of speculation; it 
has, in every part of the kingdom, moulded many 
farms into one; it has almost entirely extinguished the 
race of small farmers; from one end of England to the 
other, the houses which formerly contained little farm 
ers and their happy families, are now seen sinking into 
ruins, all the windows except one or two stopped up, 
leaving just light enough for some labourer, whose fa 
ther was, perhaps, the small farmer, to look back upon 
his half -naked and half -famished children, while, from 
his door, he surveys all around him the land teeming 
with the means of luxury to his opulent and overgrown 
master. . . . We are daily advancing to the state in 
which there are but two classes of men, masters, and 
abject dependants? 1 

This was always his major theme: 

A labouring man, in England, with a wife and only 
three children, though he never lose a day's work, 
though he and his family be economical, frugal and in 
dustrious in the most extensive sense of these words, is 
not now able to procure himself by his labour a single 
meal of meat from one end of the year unto the other. 
Is this a state in which the labouring man ought to 
be? 22 
He contrasted apparent prosperity with actual poverty: 

Here are resources! Here is wealthl Here are all the 
means of national power, and of individual plenty and 
happiness! And yet, at the end of these ten beautiful 
miles, covered with all the means of affording luxury 
in diet and in dress, we entered that city of Coventry, 
which, out of twenty thousand inhabitants, contained 
at that very moment upwards of eight thousand mis 
erable paupers. 2 * 

So the indictment mounted, and was generalized: 

England has long groaned under a commercial system 9 
which is the most oppressive of all possible systems; 


and it is, too, a quiet, silent, smothering oppression that 
it produces, which is more hateful than all others. 24 

The terms of Cobbett's social criticism so much resemble 
later and more organized critiques that it is easy to forget 
the basis of experience from which he worked, and the 
values by which he judged. He called the new class system, 
most significantly, 'unnatural'. In controversy, he accused 
an opponent of trying to cut off the 

chain of connection between the rich and the poor. 
You are for demolishing all small tradesmen. You are 
for reducing the community to two classes: Masters 
and Slaves. . . . When master and man were the 
terms, every one was in his place, and all were 
free. Now, in fact, it is an affair of masters and 
slaves. . . , 25 

The old social relations, in productive labour, were being 

replaced by men, reduced to 'hands', in the service of the 

Seigneurs of the Twist, sovereigns of the Spinning 

Jenny, great Yeomen of the Yarn. 26 

The new industrial system was unnatural, and Cobbett 
could see 'much mischief arising from such things as the 
new railways: 

They are unnatural effects, arising out of the resources 
of the country having been drawn unnaturally to 
gether into great heaps. 27 

Unnatural is the constant emphasis, and the word is the 

keystone of a continuing tradition of criticism of the new 
industrial civilization. 

Cobbetfs reaction, however, is of two main kinds. There 
is the reaction of the countryman, which has become a 
major English tradition. Faced with the new industrial 
economy, and its kind of products and way of satisfying 
needs, he issued a manual of the England he remembered: 

Cottage economy: containing information relative to 
the brewing of Beer, making of Bread, keeping of 
Cows, Pigs, Bees, Ewes, Goats, Poultry, and Rabbits, 


and relative to other matters deemed useful in the con 
ducting of the affairs of a Labourer's Family. 

It was a sign of the times, of course, that so much of this 
information should have to be conveyed in print, but the 
book epitomizes this part of Cobbett's positive reaction. He 
would salvage what he could of domestic industry and the 
traditional daily skills. 

There is also, however, Cobbett's other reaction, which 
was, and still is, very much more controversial. In the mis 
ery that had fallen on the English poor, Cobbett stood fast 
against any kind of 'consolation'. He would have nothing 
to do with charity schemes, the dissemination of religious 
tracts, or even with the kind of popular education then be 
ing recommended: 

The 'comforting' system necessarily implies interfer 
ence on one side, and dependence on the other. 28 

He did not want violence, but he expected resistance. He 
expected, and watched with sympathy, all the efforts of the 
labouring poor to improve their conditions by their own 

I knew that all the palaver in the world, all the 
wheedling, coaxing, praying; I knew that all the blus 
tering and threatening; I knew that all the teachings 
of all the Tract Societies; that all the imprisoning, 
whipping, and harnessing to carts and wagons; I knew 
that all these would fail to persuade the honest, sen 
sible and industrious English labourer, that he had not 
an indefeasible right to live. . . . There is no man, not 
of a fiend-like nature, who can view the destruction 
of property that is now going on in the Southern 
counties without the greatest pain; but I stand to it, 
that it is the strict natural course of things, where the 
labourer, the producer, will not starve. 29 

In consequence, and at great personal risk, he opposed ev 
ery kind of repression by State authority. 

To speak of them [the rioters], as The Times has done, 
as an organized rabble, easily beaten by the soldiers; 


and to say, that it may be desirable that the spirit 
should break out in all places at once, so that the trou 
ble o subduing it may be the sooner over; to talk in 
this light and swaggering manner is calculated to swell 
discontent into rage and despair. 30 

He rejected the orthodox explanation of disorder as due to 

'plots* and 'agitators': 

This is the circumstance that will most puzzle the 

ministry. They can find no agitators. It is a movement 
of the people's own. 3 

He condemned the institution of the Combination Acts, as 
a weapon against trade unionism: 

When it was found that men could not keep their 
families decently upon the wages that the rich masters 
chose to give them, and that the men would not work, 
and contrived to combine, so as to be able to live, for 
a while, without work; then it was, for the purposes in 
view, found necessary to call this combining by the 
name of conspiracy; it was found necessary so to 
torture the laws as to punish men for demanding what 
they deemed the worth of their labour. 82 

He saw labour as the only property of the poor, and he 
demanded the same rights for this as for other property: 

The principle upon which all property exists is this: 
that a man has a right to do with it that which he 
pleases. That he has a right to sell it, or to keep it. 
That he has a right to refuse to part with it at all; or, 
if he choose to sell it, to insist upon any price that he 
chooses to demand: if this be not the case, a man has 
no property. 88 

The principle comes straight from the individualist thinking 
of the eighteenth century, but in being extended to a new 
kind of property and hence to a whole new class, it threat 
ened the economic basis of a society conceived on just this 
principle. The new employer claimed his right to do as he 


willed with his own; Cobbett, on the same principle, 
claimed the same right for the workers. 

Just as Cobbett had seen the emerging class-structure of 
the new society, so he saw its consequences in class-conflict: 

They [the workers] combine to effect a rise in wages. 
The masters combine against them. One side com 
plains of the other; but, neither knows the cause of the 
turmoil, and the turmoil goes on. The different trades 
combine, and call their combination a GENERAL UNION. 
So that here is one class of society united to oppose 
another class. 34 

Cobbett saw this as inevitable, on the principle which he 
had put forward, and which the workers had themselves 
asserted. He did not think the problem was to be solved by 
the employers developing a better attitude to their work 
ers; this was part of the 'comforting system 7 , and was prac 
tised even by slave-owners towards their slaves. The work 
ers would have no more status than slaves unless the 
traditional rights of property were extended to their only 
property, their labour. He wanted the working class to real 
ize their position, in these terms. As he said in 1830, of the 
events in France: 

I am pleased at the Revolution, particularly on this ac 
count, that it makes the working classes see their real 
importance, and those who despise them see it too. 35 

Cobbett had discovered, in fact, the essential weakness, the 
inherent contradiction, in the theories of economic individ 
ualism. It might be more true to say that he had stumbled 
on it, in the coming together of his inheritance from the 
eighteenth century and of his attachment by instinct and 
experience to the labouring poor. He thus saw and ap 
proved, in its infancy, the course of the labour movement, 
and he knew that it would not be beaten by laws: 

Better call for a law to prevent those inconvenient 
things called spring-tides. 36 

That his assessment of this position was realistic, more real- 


istic by far than that of the majority of his contemporaries, 
is now obvious. 

As focal points of the criticism of the new industrial sys 
tem, we have then Cobbett the countryman, with his at 
tachments to a different way of life, and Cobbett the 
tribune, encouraging the rising labour movement. In the 
latter r61e he has been numerously succeeded, and, in 
the change of circumstance, replaced. In the former r61e he 
remains irreplaceable: the Rural Rides, and the values em 
bodied in them, are still a landmark. It remains to note 
briefly two other aspects of his work: one expected, the 
other rather surprising. The first is his position on popular 
education, which is very much that of Dickens in Hard 
Times. He believed, for political reasons, that the working 
people must be in charge of their own educational move 
ments; any other arrangement would be part of the 'com 
forting system', the incessant persuasion to 'be quiet'. Dick 
ens was not interested in such a point, but he believed, with 
Cobbett, that knowledge abstracted from a whole way of 
life, and then used as a mould into which all young lives 
were to be cast, was inhuman and dangerous. Cobbett in 
sisted that learning could not be separated from doing; and 
that good education arose from a whole way of life, and 
was a preparation for participation in it, rather than an 
isolated, 'book-learning', abstraction. The position is right, 
although it has been abused; Cobbett himself is often sim 
ply a Philistine. For the very economic and social changes 
which Cobbett was attacking were forcing a separation be 
tween learning and other human activity. Criticism of the 
separation was valuable; but it had to be made, more care 
fully perhaps than Cobbett could manage to make it, in 
positive terms of the unity of human activity, rather than 
in the negative terms of a prejudice against 'book-learning'. 
We shall see the later stages of this argument in other 

The other aspect of Cobbett's work is his surprising share 
of responsibility for that idealization of the Middle Ages 
which is so characteristic of nineteenth-century social criti 
cism. As a literary movement, mediaevalism had been 
growing since the middle of the eighteenth century. Its 


most important aspect, for Cobbett, was its use of the mon 
asteries as a standard for social institutions: the image of 
the working of a communal society as a welcome alterna 
tive to the claims of individualism. Burke made the point, 
in the Reflections; later, Pugin, Carlyle, Rusldn and Morris 
were all to make it, explicitly and mfluentially. It is a little 
surprising to find Cobbett in this company; his standard, 
normally., was "the England into which I was bom'. Yet not 
only did he make the point, he was responsible for a large 
measure of its popularization. He read Lingard's History of 
England, the work of a Catholic scholar, and used it, with 
characteristic licence, as the basis of his History of the 
Protestant Reformation. This book had, by contemporary 
standards, a huge circulation, and there must for some time 
have been many thousands of readers who came to these 
ideas through Cobbett rather than through contact with any 
of the more reliable sources. For Cobbett, as for many 
others, the attachment was one of instinct; the originating 
emotion was simply recoil from the very different social 
ideals of the rising industrialism. 

Burke and Cobbett, when their tMiking has been fol 
lowed through, are very distinct, almost antagonistic fig 
ures. Burke did not live to give an opinion of Cobbett the 
Radical, but it is likely that he would have shared Cole 
ridge's feelings in 1817; 

I entertain toward . . . Cobbetts . . . and all these 
creatures and to the Foxites, who have fostered the 
vipers a feeling more like hatred than I ever bore to 
other Flesh and Blood. 87 

Cobbett, as dogmatically, has left record of a characteris 
tically limited view of Burke: 

How amusing it is to hear the world disputing and 
wrangling about the motives, and principles, and opin 
ions of Burke! He had no notions, no principles, no 
opinions of his own, when he wrote his famous work. 
. . . He was a poor, needy dependant of a Borough- 
moBger, to serve whom, and please whom, he wrote; 
and for no other purpose whatever. . . .And yet, how 


many people read this man's writings as if they had 
flowed from his own mind, , . , 88 

Yet to put together the names of Burke and Cobbett is im 
portant, not only as contrast, but because we can only un 
derstand this tradition of criticism of the new industrial 
society if we recognize that it is compounded of very dif 
ferent and at times even directly contradictory elements. 
The growth of the new society was so confusing, even to 
the best minds, that positions were drawn up in terms of 
inherited categories, which then revealed unsuspected and 
even opposing implications. There was much overlapping, 
even in the opposite positions of a Cobbett and a Burke, 
and the continuing attack on Utilitarianism, and on the 
driving philosophy of the new industrialism, was to make 
many more strange affiliations: Marx, for instance, was to 
attack capitalism, in his early writings, in very much the 
language of Coleridge, of Burke, and of Cobbett. Utilitar 
ianism itself was to have unsuspected implications, and 
Liberalism was to divide into a confusion of meanings. It is 
no more than one would expect in the early stages of so 
great a change. The effort which men had to make, to com 
prehend and to affirm, was indeed enormous; and it is the 
effort, the learning, in experience which it is important for 
us to know. We can still be grateful that men of the quality 
of Burke and Cobbett, for all their differences, were there 
to try to learn and record, and so magnificently to affirm, 
to the last limits of their strength. 

n. Robert Southey and Robert Owen 

If you propose to render civilization complete by ex 
tending it to those classes who are brutalized by the in 
stitutions of society, half the persons whom you address 
will ask how this is to begin? and the other half, where 
it is to end? Undoubtedly both are grave questions. 
Owen of Lanark indeed would answer both. 1 

This is Southey, in his character of Montesinos, in the 
Colloquies (Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies on the Prog" 


ress and Prospects of Society; 1829) . The comment sketches 
for us the famous Mr Owen o Lanark, who, unlike the 

majority of his contemporaries who had realized the in 
adequacies of the new society, offered answers where they 
raised questions; offered confidence where they perceived 
difficulty; offered schemes, backed by practical success, 
which showed clearly where the process of completing 
civilization must begin and would end. Southey adds; 

But, because he promises too much, no trial is made of 
the good which his schemes might probably perform. 2 

There are, perhaps, other reasons than this. 

Southey goes on to praise and to criticize Owen. He de 
scribes him as 'one of the three men who have in this gen 
eration given an impulse to the moral world', and continues: 

Clarkson and Dr Bell are the other two. They have 
seen the first fruits of their harvest. So I think would 
Owen ere this, if he had not alarmed the better part of 
the nation by proclaiming, upon the most momentous 
of aU subjects, opinions which are alike fatal to individ 
ual happiness and to the general good. Yet I admire 
the man. ... A craniologist, I dare say, would pro 
nounce that the organ of theopathy is wanting in 
Owen's head, that of benevolence being so large as to 
have left no room for it. 3 

Southey is right in asserting, as Owen well knew, that 
Owen's attacks on religion, begun in 1817, led to a radical 
recasting of Owen's prospects and prevented the kind of 
harvest an active benevolent system, of a paternal kind 
which he had previously been preparing, But the man who 
is now seen as one of the founders of English socialism, and 
of the cooperative movement, requires an analysis more 
searching than that of a craniologist; there were other or 
gans, not only in Owen, but in the society that determined 
his actual course. 

Southey and Owen, in retrospect, stand as removed as 
Burke and Cobbett, in apparent principle. And Southey, 
to us, is the fainter figure: a life's work diluted to a few 


anthology poems, and marked in perpetuity by Byron's 
Vision of Judgment: 

He said (I only give the heads) he said, 
He meant no harm in scribbling; 'twas Ms way 
Upon all topics; 'twas, besides, his bread, 
Of which he butter'd both sides; 'twould delay 
Too long the assembly (he was pleased to dread) 
And take up rather more time than a day, 
To name his works he would but cite a few- 
Wat Tyler'-'Rhymes on Blenheim'-'Waterloo'. 4 

In this, as in a hundred lesser passages, Southey was the 
stock butt as a turncoat and a reactionary, but a caricature 
is not a Me, and there is more to Southey than this, just as 
there is more to Byron and Shelley than that they were (in 
Southey's phrase) members of *the Satanic school'. In his 
social dunking at least, Southey remains an influential if un 
acknowledged figure; and his approval of Owen reminds us 
of the complexity of this difficult period. Where Cobbett 
sneered at Owen's 'parallelograms of paupers', Southey, 
with very many of the new generation of English industrial 
workers, approved. In a movement like Christian Socialism, 
the inluence of both Southey and Owen can be clearly 
discerned. Yet Owen, in his main bearings, led to socialism 
and the cooperatives; Southey, with Burke and Coleridge, 
to the new conservatism. Southey's part in the latter move 
ment, moreover, was no minor one; Smythe, for example, 
instanced the Colloquies as a main source of the ideas of 
Young England, and called Southey 'the real founder of the 
movement'. 6 What Southey said in 1816 could have been 
said by many throughout this generation, including many 
of those who attacked him: 

The great evil is the state of the poor, which , . . con 
stantly exposes us to the horrors of a bellurn servile, 
and sooner or later, if not remedied, will end in one. 6 

The Colloquies remains Southey's most important work 
in this field, but as early as 1807, in the Letters porn Eng 
land by Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella, he advanced the 
kind of criticism of the new manufacturing system which 


later became axiomatic in a number of different schools, 

and which is almost identical with the later observations of 
Owen. In this essential respect he did not change his opin 
ions, and the Colloquies is only a fuller statement o a po 
sition which many thousands have inherited. 

Sir Thomas More, in the Colloquies, is made to ask: *Can 
a nation be too rich?' Southey, in the character of Monte- 
sinos, replies: 

I cannot answer that question without distinguishing 
between a people and a state. A state cannot have 
more wealth at its command than may be employed 
for the general good, a liberal expenditure in national 
works being one of the surest means for promoting na 
tional prosperity, and the benefit being still more evi 
dent of an expenditure directed to the purposes of 
national improvement. But a people may be too rich; 
because it is the tendency of the commercial, and more 
especially of the manufacturing system, to collect 
wealth rather than to diffuse it ... great capitalists 
become like pikes in a fish-pond, who devour the 
weaker fish; and it is but too certain that the poverty 
of one part of the people seems to increase in the same 
ratio as the riches of another. 7 

Whereas the natural operations of commerce are wholly 
beneficial, and bind nation to nation and man to man, the 
effect of the manufacturing system is directly opposite in 

The immediate and home effect of the manufacturing 
system, carried on as it now is upon the great scale, is 
to produce physical and moral evil, in proportion to 
the wealth which it creates. 8 

Men are being reduced to machines, and 

he who, at the beginning of his career, uses his fellow- 
creatures as bodily machines for producing wealth, 
ends not infrequently in becoming an intellectual one 
himself, employed in continually increasing what it is 
impossible for him to enjoy. 9 



the new cottages of the manufacturers (i.e. workmen) 
are . . . upon the manufacturing pattern . . . naked, 
and in a row. How is it, said I, that every thing which 
is connected with manufactures presents such features 
of unqualified deformity? . . . Time cannot mellow 
them; Nature will neither clothe nor conceal them; and 
they remain always as offensive to the eye as to the 
mind. 10 

The items of this comprehensive indictment, and certain of 
its actual phrases, wffl be recognized as familiar by many 
who know Southey only as a 'renegade*. It is among the 
very earliest general judgements of this kind. 

Southey's affirmation is as characteristic as his indict 
ment, and is again a very early example of a position which 
has become general. The contrast with mediaeval society 
is one of its elements, although not greatly stressed. The 
very form of the Colloquies the bringing of More to ques 
tion the new society indicates a conscious continuity with 
the first phase of the humanist challenge, in which many of 
the ideas now concentrated in the meaning of 'culture* were 
in fact laid down. Southey handles the historical contrast 
in this comment by More: 

Throughout the trading part of the community every 
one endeavours to purchase at the lowest price, and 
sell at the highest, regardless of equity in either case. 
Bad as the feudal times were, they were less injurious 
than these commercial ones to the kindly and generous 
feelings of human nature. 11 

The comment indicates also a central feature in Southey's 
attitude, and one which ranges him firmly with Owen, Criti 
cizing orthodox political economy, on the grounds of its 
exclusion of moral considerations, Montesinos adds: 

[It discerns] the cause of all our difficulties , . . , not 
in the constitution of society, but of human nature. 12 

Complementary with this, Southey insists on the positive 
functions of government: 


There can be no health, no soundness in the state, till 
Government shall regard the moral improvement of 
the people as its first great duty. The same remedy is 
required for the rich and for the poor. . . . Some 
voluntary cast-aways there will always be, whom no 
fostering kindness and no parental care can preserve 
from self-destruction, but if any are lost for want of 
care and culture, there is a sin of omission in the society 
to which they belong. 13 

The word, culture, indicates here the line which was to be 
so extensively pursued: the setting-up, in opposition to the 
laissez-faire society of the political economists, of an idea of 
active and responsible government, whose first duty was the 
promotion of the general health of society. The idea, as was 
to become habitual, was linked with a respect for 'feeling* 
More's comment, like Burke's, on the rise of the new so 
ciety, is: 

In came calculation, and out went feeling. 14 

Southey also puts forward a view of the humanizing effects 

of literature, which the author of Utopia would have recog 
nized. In reply to More's grand indictment of the sinfulness 
of the nation, Montesinos replies: 

There is hope to be derived from the humanizing ef 
fects of literature, which has now first begun to act 

upon all ranks, 15 

All these points are made by Southey very early in what 
was to become a major nineteenth-century tradition. 

Southey's detailed proposals for reform are less interest 
ing than his general affirmation: they include planned 
colonization, an improved parochial order, a more efficient 
police, a national system of education, universal religious 
instruction, savings-banks, and, finally, 

perhaps by the establishment of Owenite communities 
among themselves, the labouring cksses will have 
their comforts enlarged, and their well-being secured, 
if they are not wanting to themselves in prudence and 
good conduct. 16 


It is the familiar paternalist programme, but Owen, as 
must now be stressed, is rightly placed in such a context. 
Southey ends with an exchange of questions between 

Montesinos and More: 

Montesinos: You would make me apprehend, then, 
that we have advanced in our chemical and mechani 
cal discoveries faster than is consistent with the real 
welfare of society. 

More: You cannot advance in them too fast, pro 
vided that the moral culture of the species keep pace 
with the increase of its material powers. Has it been 
so? 17 

Hou cannot advance in them too fast: this certainly would 
make sense to Owen. The real originality that gives value to 
Owen's work is that he begins from an acceptance of the 
vastly increased power which the Industrial Revolution had 
brought, and sees in just this increase of power the oppor 
tunity for the new moral world. He is the successful manu 
facturer, and not the scholar or poet; in temperament and 
personality he is at one with the new industrialists who were 
transforming England, but his vision of transformation is 
human as well as material. As the new generation of manu 
facturers would organize their places of work for produc 
tion, or for profit, so he would organize England for 
happiness. He is as firmly paternalist, and as essentially 
authoritarian, as a Tory reformer like Southey, but he ac 
cepts, without equivocation, the increase of wealth as the 
means of culture. 

Owen's Observations on the Effect of the Manufacturing 
System (1815) offers the now familiar general judgement: 

The general diffusion of manufactures throughout a 
country generates a new character in its inhabitants; 
and as this character is formed upon a principle quite 
unfavourable to individual or general happiness, it wiH 
produce the most lamentable and permanent evils, un 
less its tendency be counteracted by legislative inter 
ference and direction. The manufacturing system has 
already so far extended its influence over the British 


empire, as to effect an essential change in the general 
character of the mass of the people. This alteration is 

still in rapid progress, and, ere long, the comparatively 
happy simplicity of the agricultural peasant will be 
wholly lost amongst us. It is even, now scarcely any 
where to be found, without a mixture of those habits 
which are the offspring of trade, manufactures, and 
commerce. 18 

Owen is thus with Southey, and against the political econo 
mists, in discerning the 'cause of all our difficulties', not 
in human nature, but in the 'constitution of society'. Fur 
ther, he is stating, with hitherto unequalled clarity, the 
two propositions which have since been so widely affirmed: 

(i) that a change in the conditions of production ef 
fects an essential change in the human producers; 

(ii) that the Industrial Revolution was such a major 
change, and produced what was virtually a new 
kind of human being. 

He attacks the change, as a matter of course: 

All ties between employers and employed are frittered 
down to the consideration of what immediate gain 
each can derive from the other. The employer regards 
the employed as mere instruments of gain, while these 
acquire a gross ferocity of character, which, if legisla 
tive measures shall not be judiciously devised to pre 
vent its increase, and ameliorate the condition of this 
class, will sooner or later plunge the country into a 
formidable and perhaps inextricable state of danger. 19 

The choice, as Owen sees it, is between the new moral 

world and anarchy. 

The problem, as it presented itself to Owen, was one of 
social engineering: the phrase gives exactly the right stress. 
His basic principle he expresses in this way: 

Any general character, from the best to the worst, from 
he most ignorant to the most enlightened, may be 
given to any community, even to the world at large, by 
titxe application of proper means; which means are to a 


great extent at the command and under the control of 
those who have influence in the affairs of men. 20 

At times, and particularly in his very early writings, he is 
not above expressing this principle in terms of the low ra 
tionalism which one still encounters in discussion of indus 
trial relations: 

If, then, due care as to the state of your inanimate 
machines can produce such beneficial results, what 
may not be expected if you devote equal attention to 
your vital machines, which are far more wonderfully 
constructed? When you shall acquire a right knowl 
edge of these, of their curious mechanism, of their self- 
adjusting powers, when the proper main-spring shall 
be applied to their varied movements you will be 
come conscious of their real value. . . . The more deli 
cate, complex, living mechanism would be equally im 
proved by being trained to strength and activity; . . . 
it would also prove true economy to keep it neat and 
clean; to treat it with kindness, that its mental move 
ments might not experience too much irritating fric 
tion. . . . From experience which cannot deceive me, 
I venture to assure you, that your time and money so 
applied, if directed by a true knowledge of the subject, 
would return you, not five, ten, or fifteen per cent for 
your capital so expended, but often fifty, and in many 
cases a hundred per cent 21 

Against this element in Owen, the coarse scepticism of 
Cobbett reveals itself as a far superior human refinement. 
Yet the spirit of Owen, in the main, is not fairly repre 
sented by his surrender to such a device of argument. The 
infant schools of New Lanark were original enough in their 
educational techniques, but they were far more innovating 
in their humanity and kindness. When Owen talked of cre 
ating human happiness, he was not serving an abstraction 
but an active and deeply impressive experience. His institu 
tion of these schools, so fascinatingly described on pages 
186 to 196 of his autobiography, ranks as one of the major 
personal achievements of the century: 


The children were trained and educated without pun 
ishment or any fear of it, and were while in school by 
far the happiest human beings I have ever seen. . . . 
Human nature, its capacities and powers, is yet to be 
learned by the world. 22 

The whole enterprise at New Lanark, indeed, is so great a 
positive human achievement as to be virtually incredible, in 
such a field, in the years between the Luddites and Peterloo. 
Always, it is Owen's experience that is impressive the 
lived quality of his new view of society: 

I was completely tired of partners who were merely 
trained to buy cheap and sell dear. This occupation 
deteriorates, and often destroys, the finest and best 
faculties of our nature. From an experience of a long 
life, in which I passed through all the gradations of 
trade, manufactures and commerce, I am thoroughly 
convinced that there can be no superior character 
formed under this thoroughly selfish system. Truth, 
honesty, virtue, will be mere names, as they are now, 
and as they have ever been. Under this system there 
can be no true civilization; for by it all are trained 
civilly to oppose and often to destroy one another by 
their created opposition of interests. It is a low, vulgar, 
ignorant and inferior mode of conducting the affairs 
of society; and no permanent, general and substantial 
improvement can arise until it shall be superseded by 
a superior mode of forming character and creating 
wealth. 28 

HazMtt first said, and others with and without acknowl 
edgement have repeated, that Owen was *a man of one 
idea'. Owen's comment on this is just; 

Had he said that I was a man of one fundamental prin 
ciple and its practical consequenceshe would have 
been nearer the truth. For instead of the knowledge 
that 'the character of man is formed for and not by 

him' being 'one idea' it will be found to be, like the 
little grain of mustard seed, competent to fill the mind 


with new and true ideas, and to overwhelm in its con 
sequences all other ideas opposed to it. 24 

Owen's tone, frequently, is messianic, and it becomes shrill, 
in the later years, with practical disappointment. Yet the 
*one idea*, with its essential hope, has certainly proved com 
petent to fill the mind of England. On the one hand, Owen's 
idea of a new moral world, to be created by active govern 
ment and a national system of education, merged signifi 
cantly with the idea of positive culture which gained 
strength and wide adherence with the progress of the cen 
tury. On the other hand, setting aside the principle of 
paternalism, the succeeding generations of the English 
industrial working people took upon themselves the realiza 
tion of Owen's 'fundamental principle and its practical con 
sequences*. We need only add, as a significant footnote, a 
question and answer from Owen's Catechism of the New 
View of Society (1817) : 

Q: Is it not to be feared that such arrangements as 
you contemplate would produce a dull uniformity of 
character, repress genius, and leave the world without 
hope of future improvements? 

A: It appears to me that quite the reverse of all this 
will follow. ... It is not easy to imagine, with our 
present ideas, what may be accomplished by human 
beings so trained and so circumstanced. . . , It is only 
when the obscurities by which society is now envel 
oped are in some degree removed, that the benefit 
. . . can be even in part appreciated. 25 

The answer, however locally convincing, is in terms of the 
idea which makes Owen significant in this tradition: that 
human nature itself is the product of a 'whole way of life*, 

of a 'culture*. 



THAN the poets from Blake and Wordsworth to Shelley and 
Keats there have been few generations of creative writers 
more deeply interested and more involved in study and 
criticism of the society of their day. Yet a fact so evident, 
and so easily capable of confirmation, accords uneasily in 
our own time with that popular and general conception of 
the 'romantic artist' which, paradoxically, has been pri 
marily derived from study of these same poets. In this con 
ception, the Poet, the Artist, is by nature indifferent to the 
crude worldliness and materialism of politics and social af 
fairs;, he is devoted, rather, to the more substantial spheres 
of natural beauty and personal feeling. The elements of this 
paradox can be seen in the work of the Romantic poets 
themselves, but the supposed opposition between attention 
to natural beauty and attention to government, or between 
personal feeling and the nature of man in society, is on the 
whole a later development. What were seen at the end of 
the nineteenth century as disparate interests, between 
which a man must choose and in the act of choice declare 
himself poet or sociologist, were, normally, at the beginning 
of the century, seen as interlocking interests; a conclusion 
about personal feeling became a conclusion about society, 
and an observation of natural beauty carried a necessary 
moral reference to the whole and uniied life of man. The 
subsequent dissociation of interests certainly prevents us 
from seeing the full significance of this remarkable period, 
but we must add also that the dissociation is itself in part a 
product of the nature of the Romantic attempt Mean 
while, as some sort of security against the vestiges of the 
dissociation, we may usefully remind ourselves that Words 
worth wrote political pamphlets, that Blake was a friend of 
Tom Paine and was tried for sedition, that Coleridge wrote 
political journalism and social philosophy, that Shelley, in 


addition to this, distributed pamphlets in the streets, that 
Southey was a constant political commentator, that Byron 
spoke on the frame-riots and died as a volunteer in a politi 
cal war; and, further, as must surely be obvious from the 
poetry of all the men named, that these activities were 
neither marginal nor Incidental, but were essentially related 
to a large part of the experience from which the poetry itself 
was made. It is, moreover, only when we are blinded by 
the prejudice of the dissociation that we nd such a com 
plex of activities in any way surprising. For these two gen 
erations of poets lived through the crucial period in which 
the rise both of democracy and of industry was effecting 
qualitative changes in society: changes which by their na 
ture were felt in a personal as well as in a general way. In 
the year of the French Revolution, Blake was 32, Words 
worth 19, Coleridge 17 and Southey 15. In the year of 
Peterloo, Byron was 31, Shelley 27, Keats 24. The dates 
are sufficient reminder of a period of political turmoil and 
controversy ierce enough to make it very difficult for even 
the least sensitive to be indifferent. Of the slower, wider, 
less observable changes that we call the Industrial Revolu 
tion, the landmarks are less obvious; but the lifetime of 
Blake ? 1757 to 1827, is, in general, the decisive period. The 
changes that we receive as record were experienced, in 
these years, on the senses: hunger, suffering, conflict, dis 
location; hope, energy, vision, dedication. The pattern of 
change was not background, as we may now be inclined 
to study it; it was, rather, the mould in which general ex 
perience was cast. 

It is possible to abstract a political commentary from the 
writings of these poets, but this is not particularly impor 
tant. The development of Wordsworth, Coleridge and 
Southey from differing degrees of revolutionary ardour in 
their youth to differing degrees of Burkean conservatism in 
their maturity is interesting. A distinction between the revo 
lutionary principles of Shelley and the fine libertarian op 
portunism of Byron is useful. A reminder that Blake and 
Keats cannot be weakened to some ideal vagueness, but 
were, as men and poets, passionately committed to the trag 
edy of their period, is timely. In every case, however, the 


political criticism is now less interesting than the wider so 
cial criticism: those first apprehensions of the essential sig 
nificance of the Industrial Revolution, which all felt and 
none revoked. Beyond this, again, is a different kind of 
response, which is a main root of the idea of culture. At 
this very time of political, social and economic change there 
is a radical change also in ideas of art, of the artist, and of 
their place in society. It is this significant change that I 
wish to adduce. 

There are five main points: first, that a major change was 
taking place in the nature of the relationship between a 
writer and his readers; second, that a different habitual 
attitude towards the 'public' was establishing itself; third, 
that the production of art was coming to be regarded as one 
of a number of specialized kinds of production, subject to 
much the same conditions as general production; fourth, 
that a theory of the 'superior reality* of art, as the seat of 
imaginative truth, was receiving increasing emphasis; fifth, 
that the idea of the independent creative writer, the autono 
mous genius, was becoming a kind of rule. In naming these 
points, it is of course necessary to add at once that they are 
clearly very closely interrelated, and that some might be 
named as causes, and some as effects, were not the historical 
process so complex as to render a clear division impossible. 

The first characteristic is clearly a very important one. 
From the third and fourth decades of the eighteenth cen 
tury there had been growing up a large new middle-class 
reading public, the rise in which corresponds very closely 
with the rise to influence and power of the same class. 
As a result, the system of patronage had passed into 
subscription-publishing, and thence into general commer 
cial publishing of the modern kind. These developments 
affected writers in several ways. There was an advance, for 
the fortunate ones, in independence and social status-the 
writer became a fully-fledged 'professional man*. But the 
change also meant the institution of 'the market* as the type 
of a writer's actual relations with society. Under patronage, 
the writer had at least a direct relationship with an imme 
diate circle of readers, from whom, whether prudentially 
or willingly, as mark or as matter of respect, he was ac- 


customed to accept and at times to act on criticism. It is 
possible to argue that this system gave the writer a more 
relevant freedom than that to which he succeeded. In any 
event, against the dependence, the occasional servility and 
the subjection to patronal caprice had to be set the direct 
relation of the act of writing with at least some part of so 
ciety, personally known, and the sense, when relations were 
fortunate, that the writer 'belonged'. On the other hand, 
against the independence and the raised social status which 
success on the market commanded had to be set similar 
liabilities to caprice and similar obligations to please, but 
now, not liabilities to individuals personally known, but to 
the workings of an institution which seemed largely im 
personal. The growth of the 'literary market' as the type of 
a writer's relations with Ms readers has been responsible 
for many fundamental changes of attitude. But one must 
add, of course, that such a growth is always uneven, both 
in its operations and in its effects. It is not perhaps until 
our own century that it is so nearly universal as to be almost 
dominant. By the beginning of the nineteenth century the 
institution was established, but it was nevertheless modified 
by many kinds of survival of earlier conditions. The im 
portant reactions to it were, however, laid down at this 

One such reaction, evidently, is that named as the second 
point; the growth of a different habitual attitude towards 
the 'public*. Writers had, of course, often expressed, before 
tihis time, a feeling of dissatisfaction with the 'public', but 
in the early nineteenth century this feeling became acute 
and general. One finds it in Keats: 1 have not the slightest 
feel of humility towards the Public'; in Shelley: 'Accept no 
counsel from the simple-minded. Time reverses the judge 
ment of the foolish crowd. Contemporary criticism is no 
more than the sum of the folly with which genius has to 
wrestle.* One finds it, most notably and most extensively, in 

Still more lamentable is his error who can believe that 
there is anything of divine infallibility in the clamour 
of that small though loud portion of the community, 


ever governed by factitious influence, which, under 
the name of the PUBLIC, passes itself upon the unthink 
ing, for the PEOPLE. Towards the Public, the Writer 
hopes that he feels as much deference as it is entitled 
to; but to the People, philosophically characterized, 
and to the embodied spirit of their knowledge ... his 
devout respect, his reverence, is due. 1 

It is, of course, easier to be respectful and reverent to 'the 
People, philosophically characterized', than to a Public, 
which noisily identifies itself. Wordsworth, in his concep 
tion of the People, is drawing heavily on the social theory 
of Burke, and for not dissimilar reasons. However the im 
mediate argument went, whatever the reactions of actual 
readers, there was thus available a final appeal to 'the em 
bodied spirit ... of the People': that is to say, to an Idea, 
an Ideal Reader, a standard that might be set above the 
clamour of the writer's actual relations with society. The 
'embodied spirit', naturally enough, was a very welcome 
alternative to the market. Obviously, such an attitude then 
affects the writer's own attitude to his work. He will not 
accept the market quotation of popularity: 

Away then with the senseless iteration of the word 
popular applied to new works in poetry, as if there 
were no test of excellence in this first of the fine arts 
but that all men should run after its productions, as if 
urged by an appetite, or constrained by a spell. 2 

He will continue to insist, in fact, on an Idea, a standard of 
excellence, the 'embodied spirit* of a People's knowledge, 
as something superior to the actual course of events, the 
actual run of the market. This insistence, it is worth em 
phasizing, is one of the primary sources of the idea of Cul 
ture. Culture, the 'embodied spirit of a People', the true 
standard of excellence, became available, in the progress of 
the century, as the court of appeal in which real values 
were determined, usually in opposition to the 'factitious' 
values thrown up by the market and similar operations of 

The subjection of art to the laws of the market, and its 


consideration as a specialized form of production subject 
to much the same conditions as other forms of production, 
had been prefigured in much late-eighteenth-century think 
ing. Adam Smith had written: 

In opulent and commercial societies to think or to rea 
son comes to be, like every other employment, a par 
ticular business, which is carried on by a very few 
people, who furnish the public with all the thought 
and reason possessed by the vast multitudes that la 
bour, 3 

This is significant as a description of that special class of 
persons who from the iSaos were to be called Intellectuals'. 
It describes, also, the new conditions of specialization of 
the artist, whose work, as Adam Smith had said of knowl 
edge, was now in fact 

purchased, in the same manner as shoes or stockings, 
from those whose business it is to make up and prepare 

for the market that particular species of goods. 4 

Such a position, and such a specialization of function, fol 
lowed inevitably from the institution of commercial pub 
lishing. The novel, in particular, had quickly become a com 
modity; its main history as a literary form follows, as is 
well known, precisely the growth of these new conditions. 
But the effects were also obvious in poetry, on which the 
impact of a market relationship was inevitably severe. 
Alongside the rejection of the Public and of Popularity as 
standards of worth, increasing complaint was made that 
literature had become a trade. The two things, in fact, 
were normally treated together. Sir Egerton Brydges wrote 
in the 18205: 

It is a vile evil that literature is become so much a trade 
all over Europe. Nothing has gone so far to nurture a 
corrupt taste, and to give the unintellectual power 
over the intellectual. Merit is now universally esteemed 
by the multitude of readers that an author can attract. 
. . . Will the uncultivated mind admire what delights 
the cultivated? 5 


Similarly in 1834 Tom Moore spoke of the 

lowering of standard that must necessarily arise from 
the extending of the circle of judges; from letting the 
mob in to vote, particularly at a period when the mar 
ket is such an object to authors. 6 

He went on to distinguish between the 'mob' and the 'cul 
tivated few*. It is obvious, here, how the adjective 'culti 
vated' contributed to the newly necessary abstractions, 'cul 
tivation' and 'culture'. In this kind of argument, 'culture 7 
became the normal antithesis to the market. 

I have emphasized this new type of an author's relation 
ship to his readers because I believe that such matters are 
always central in any kind of literary activity. I turn now to 
what is clearly a related matter, but one which raises the 
most difficult issues of interpretation. It is a fact that in this 
same period in which the market and the idea of specialist 
production received increasing emphasis there grew up, 
also, a system of thinking about the arts of which the most 
important elements are, first, an emphasis on the special 
nature of art-activity as a means to 'imaginative truth*, and, 
second, an emphasis on the artist as a special kind of person. 
It is tempting to see these theories as a direct response to 
the actual change in relations between artist and society. 
Certainly, in the documents, there are some obvious ele 
ments of compensation: at a time when the artist is being 
described as just one more producer of a commodity for 
the market, he is describing himself as a specially endowed 
person, the guiding light of the common lif e. Yet, undoubt 
edly, this is to simplify the matter, for the response is not 
merely a professional one. It is also (and this has been of 
the greatest subsequent importance) an emphasis on the 
embodiment in art of certain human values, capacities, 
energies, which the development of society towards an in 
dustrial civilization was felt to be threatening or even de 
stroying. The element of professional protest is undoubtedly 
there, but the larger issue is the opposition on general hu 
man grounds to the kind of civilization that was being 

Romanticism is a general European movement, and it is 


possible to relate the new ideas, as they arise, solely to a 
larger system of ideas in European thinking as a whole. The 
influence of Rousseau, of Goethe, of Schiller and of Cha 
teaubriand can certainly be traced. Indeed, if we consider 
the ideas in abstraction, we can take the idea of the artist as 
a special kind of person, and of the Vild' genius, as far back 
as the Socratic definition of a poet in Plato's Ion. The 
'superior reality' of art has a multitude of classical texts, 
and, within our period, is in obvious relation with the Ger 
man idealist school of philosophy and its English dilution 
through Coleridge and Carlyle. These relations are impor 
tant, yet an idea can perhaps only be weighed, only under 
stood, in a particular mind and a particular situation. In 
England, these ideas that we call Romantic have to be un 
derstood in terms of the problems in experience with which 
they were advanced to deal. 

A good example is a definition in one of the early docu 
ments of English Romanticism, Young's Conjectures on 
Original Composition (1759) : 

An Original may be said to be of a vegetable nature; 
it rises spontaneously from the vital root of genius; it 
grows, it is not made; Imitations are often a sort of 
manufacture, wrought up by those mechanics, art and 

labour, out of pre-existent materials not their own. 7 

This is a piece of very familiar Romantic literary theory: 
contrasting the spontaneous work of genius with the formal 
imitative work bound by a set of rules. As Young also 

Modern writers have a choice to make . . . they may 
soar in the regions of liberty, or move in the soft fet 
ters of easy imitation* 

But what Young is saying when he defines an 'original' is, 
if we look at his terms, very closely linked with a whole 
general movement of society. It is certainly literary theory, 
but as certainly it is not being formulated in isolation. When 
he says of an original that It grows, it is not made*, he is 
using the exact terms on which Burke based his whole 
philosophical criticism of the new politics. The contrast be- 


tween 'grows' and 'made' was to become the contrast "be 
tween 'organic' and 'mechanical' which lies at the very 
centre of a tradition which has continued to our own day. 
Again, when he defines an 'imitation', Young condemns it 
in terms of the very industrial processes which were about to 
transform English society: 'a sort of manufacture, wrought 
up by those mechanics . . . out of pre-existent materials 
not their own'. The point may or may not hold in literary 
theory; but these are certainly the terms and the implied 
values by which the coming industrial civilization was to be 

Burke condemned the new society in terms of his experi 
ence (or his idealization) of the earlier society. But increas 
ingly as the huge changes manifested themselves the con 
demnation became specialized, and, in a sense, abstract. 
One part of the specialization was the growth of the stand 
ard of Cultivation or Culture; another part, closely related 
to this and later in fact to combine with it, was the growth 
of the new idea of Art. This new idea of a superior reality, 
and even of a superior power, is strikingly expressed by 

'Now Art has lost its mental charms 

France shall subdue the World in Arms.' 

So spoke an Angel at my birth, 

Then said, 'Descend thou upon Earth. 

Renew the Arts on Britain's Shore, 

And France shall fall down and adore. 

With works of Art their armies meet, 

And War shall sink beneath thy feet. 

But if thy Nation Arts refuse, 

And if they scorn the immortal Muse, 

France shall the arts of Peace restore, 

And save thee from the Ungrateful shore.' 

Spirit, who lov'st Britannia's Isle, 

Round which the Fiends of Commerce smile. . . . 9 

In Blake, the professional pressures can be easily discerned, 
for he suffered badly in 'the desolate market where none 
come to buy'. He reminds us of Young, when he attacks 


the interest of the Monopolizing Trader who Manu 
factures Art by the Hands of Ignorant Journeymen till 
. . . he is Counted the Greatest Genius who can sell a 
Good-for-Nothing Commodity for a Great Price. 10 

But, equally, Blake's criticism goes far beyond the profes 
sional complaint: the Imagination which, for him, Art em 
bodies is no commodity, but 

a Representation of what Eternally Exists, Really and 
Unchangeably. 11 

It is in such a light that the inadequacies of existing society 
and of the quality of life which it promotes are to be seen 
and condemned. 

It is important to measure the strength of this claim, for 
we shall misunderstand it if we look only at some of the later 
divagations of the idea of Genius. The ambiguous word in 
Young's definition is Imitation*, which in nearly all Ro 
mantic theory acquired a heavily derogatory sense. This is 
because 'imitation' was understood to mean Imitation of 
works already done', that is to say conformity to a given 
set of rules. The eloquence deployed against the set of rules 
is both remarkable and, in the end, tedious. What was hap 
pening, technically, was no more than a change of conven 
tion, which when it is of any magnitude normally carries 
such eloquence as a by-product. To the degree that the 
change is more than a change in conventionand changes 
in convention only occur when there are radical changes 
in the general structure of feeling the word 'Imitation' is 
particularly confusing. For indeed, in the best 'classicist' 
theory, Imitation is the term normally used to describe what 
Blake has just described, and what all the Romantic writers 
emphasized: *a Representation of what Eternally Exists, 
Really and Unchangeably*. Imitation, at its best, was not 
understood as adherence to somebody else's rules; it was, 
rather, 'imitation of the universal reality'. An artist's precepts 
were not so much previous works of art as the 'universals' 
(in Aristotle's term) or permanent realities. This argu 
ment, really, had been completed in the writings of the 


The tendency of Romanticism is towards a vehement re 
fection of dogmas of method in art, but it is also, very 
clearly, towards a claim which all good classical theory 
would have recognized: the claim that the artist's business 
is to "read the open secret of the universe*. A romantic' 
critic like Ruskrn, for example, bases his whole theory of art 
on just this 'classicist* doctrine. The artist perceives and rep 
resents Essential Reality, and he does so by virtue of his 
master faculty Imagination. In fact, the doctrines of 'the 
genius' (the autonomous creative artist) and of the 'supe 
rior reality of art* (penetration to a sphere of universal 
truth) were in Romantic thinking two sides of the same 
claim. Both Romanticism and Classicism are in this sense 
idealist theories of art; they are really opposed not so much 
by each other as by naturalism. 

What was important at this time was the stress given to 
a mode of human experience and activity which the prog 
ress of society seemed increasingly to deny. Wordsworth 
might hold with particular conviction the idea of the per 
secuted genius, but there is a more general significance in 
his attitudes to poetry, and indeed to art as a whole: 

High is our calling, Friend! Creative Art . . . 

Demands the service of a mind and heart 

Though sensitive, yet in their weakest part 

Heroically fashioned to infuse 

Faith in the whispers of the lonely Muse 

While the whole world seems adverse to desert. 12 

These are the lines to the painter Haydon, in December 
1815. They are significant for the additional reason that 
they mark the fusing into the common 'sphere of imagina 
tive truth' of the two separate arts, or skills, of poetry and 
painting. While in one sense the market was specializing the 
artist, artists themselves were seeking to generalize their 
skills into the common property of imaginative truth. Al 
ways, this kind of emphasis is to be seen as a mode of de 
fence: the defensive tone in Wordsworth's lines is very ob 
vious, and in this they are entirely characteristic. At one 
level the defence is evidently compensatory: the height of 
the artists* claim is also the height of their despair. They 


defined, emphatically, their high calling, but they came to 
define and to emphasize because they were convinced that 
the principles on which the new society was being organ 
ized were actively hostile to the necessary principles of art 
Yet, while to see the matter in this way is to explain the 
new emphasis, it is not to explain it away. What was laid 
down as a defensive reaction became in the course of the 
century a most important positive principle, which in its 
full implications was deeply and generally humane. 

There are many texts from which this principle can be 
illustrated, but the most characteristic, as it is also among 
the best known, is Wordsworth's Preface of 1800 to the 
Lyrical Ballads. Here it is not only the truth but the general 
humanity of poetry which Wordsworth emphasizes: first, 
by attacking those 

who talk of Poetry as of a matter of amusement and 
idle pleasure; who will converse with us as gravely 

about a taste for poetry, as they express it, as if it were 

a thing as indifferent as a taste for rope-dancing, or 
Frontiniac or Sherry. 18 

The concept of taste which implies one kind of relation 
ship between writer and reader is inadequate because 

it is a metaphor, taken from a passive sense of the 
human body, and transferred to things which are in 
their essence not passive to intellectual acts and op 
erations. . . . But the profound and the exquisite in 
feeling, the lofty and universal in thought and imagina 
tion ... are neither of them, accurately speaking, ob 
jects of a faculty which could ever without a sinking 
in the spirit of Nations have been designated by the 
metaphor Taste. And why? Because without the exer 
tion of a cooperating power in the mind of the Reader, 
there can be no adequate sympathy with either of 
these emotions: without this auxiliary impulse, ele 
vated or profound passion cannot exist. 14 

This states in another way an important criticism of the 
new kind of social relationships of art: when art is a com 
modity, taste is adequate, but when it is something more, a 


more active relationship is essential. The 'something more' 
Is commonly defined: 

Aristotle, I have been told, has said, that Poetry is the 
most philosophic of all writing: it is so: its object is 
truth, not individual and local, but general and opera 
tive; not standing upon external testimony, but carried 
alive into the heart by passion; truth which is its own 
testimony, which gives competence and confidence to 
the tribunal to which it appeals, and receives them 
from the same tribunal. . . . The Poet writes under 
one restriction only, namely, the necessity of giving 
immediate pleasure to a human Being possessed of that 
information which may be expected from him, not as a 
lawyer, a physician, a mariner, an astronomer, or a 
natural philosopher, but as a Man. . . . To this knowl 
edge which all men carry about with them, and to 
these sympathies in which, without any other discipline 
than that of our daily Me, we are fitted to take de 
light, the Poet principally directs his attention. . . . 
He is the rock of defence for human nature; an up 
holder and preserver, carrying everywhere with him 
relationship and love. In spite of difference of soil and 
climate, of language and manners, of laws and cus 
toms: in spite of things silently gone out of mind, and 
things violently destroyed; the Poet binds together by 
passion and knowledge the vast empire of human so 
ciety, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over 
all time. 15 

This is the case which, in its essentials, was to be eloquently 
restated by Shelley in his Defence of Poetry. It is the case 
which extends through Ruskin and Morris into our own 
century, when Poetry, as Wordsworth would have ap 
proved, has been widened to Art in general. The whole 
tradition can be summed up in one striking phrase used by 
Wordsworth, where the poet, the artist in general, is seen as 

an upholder and preserver, carrying everywhere with 
him relationship and love. 16 

Artists, in this mood, came to see themselves as agents of 


the 'revolution for life', in their capacity as bearers of the 
creative imagination. Here, again, is one of the principal 
sources of the idea of Culture; it was on this basis that the 
association of the idea of the general perfection of humanity 
with the practice and study of the arts was to be made. For 
here, in the work of artists-~*the first and last of all knowl 
edge ... as immortal as the heart of man' was a practica 
ble mode of access to that ideal of human perfection which 
was to be the centre of defence against the disintegrating 
tendencies of the age. 

The emphasis on a general common humanity was evi 
dently necessary in a period in which a new kind of society 
was coming to think of man as merely a specialized instru 
ment of production. The emphasis on love and relationship 
was necessary not only within the immediate suffering but 
against the aggressive individualism and the primarily 
economic relationships which the new society embodied. 
Emphasis on the creative imagination, similarly, may be 
seen as an alternative construction of human motive and 
energy, in contrast with the assumptions of the prevailing 
political economy. This point is indeed the most interesting 
part of Shelley's Defence: 

Whilst the mechanist abridges, and the political econo 
mist combines, labour, let them beware that their spec 
ulations, for want of correspondence with those first 
principles which belong to the imagination, do not 
tend, as they have in modern England, to exasperate at 
once the extremes of luxury and want. . . . The rich 
have become richer, and the poor have become poorer; 
and the vessel of the state is driven between the Scylla 
and Charybdis of anarchy and despotism. Such are the 
effects which must ever flow from an unmitigated ex 
ercise of the calculating faculty. 17 

This is the general indictment which we can see already 
forming as a tradition, and the remedy is in the same terms: 

There is no want of knowledge respecting what is 
wisest and best in morals, government, and political 
economy, or at least, what is wiser and better than 


what men now practise or endure. But ... we want 
the creative faculty to imagine that which we know; 
we want the generous impulse to act that which we 
imagine; we want the poetry of life: our calculations 
have outrun conception; we have eaten more than we 
can digest. . . . Poetry, and the Principle of Self, of 
which Money is the visible incarnation, are the God 
and Mammon of the world. 18 

The most obvious criticism of such a position as Shelley's 
is that, while it is wholly valuable to present a wider and 
more substantial account of human motive and energy than 
was contained in the philosophy of industrialism, there are 
corresponding dangers in specializing this more substantial 
energy to the act of poetry, or of art in general. It is this 
specialization which, later, made much of this criticism in 
effectual. The point will become clearer in the later stages 
of our enquiry, where it will be a question of distinguishing 
between the idea of culture as art and the idea of culture 
as a whole way of life. The positive consequence of the idea 
of art as a superior reality was that it offered an immediate 
basis for an important criticism of industrialism. The nega 
tive consequence was that it tended, as both the situation 
and the opposition hardened, to isolate art, to specialize the 
imaginative faculty to this one kind of activity, and thus to 
weaken the dynamic function which Shelley proposed for 
it. We have already examined certain of the factors which 
tended towards this specialization; it remains now to ex 
amine the growth of the idea of the artist as a 'special kind 
of person*. 

The word Art, which had commonly meant 'skill', be 
came specialized during the course of the eighteenth cen 
tury, rst to 'painting*, and then to the imaginative arts 
generally. Artist, similarly, from the general sense of a 
skilled person, in either the liberal' or the 'useful' arts, had 
become specialized in the same direction, and had distin 
guished itself from artisan (formerly equivalent with artist, 
but later becoming what we still call, in the opposite spe 
cialized sense, a 'skilled worker*), and of course from 
craftsman. The emphasis on skill, in the word, was gradu- 


ally replaced by an emphasis on sensibility; and this replace 
ment was supported by the parallel changes in such words 
as creative (a word which could not have been applied to 
art until the idea of the 'superior reality' was forming), 
original (with its important implications of spontaneity and 
vitalism; a word, we remember, that Young virtually con 
trasted with art in the sense of skill), and genius (which, 
because of its root association with the idea of inspiration, 
had changed from 'characteristic disposition* to 'exalted 
special ability', and took its tone in this from the other affec 
tive words) . From artist in the new sense there were formed 
artistic and artistical, and these, by the end of the nineteenth 
century, had certainly more reference to 'temperament* 
than to skill or practice. Aesthetics, itself a new word, and 
a product of the specialization, similarly stood parent to 
aesthete, which again indicated a 'special kind of person*. 
The claim that the artist revealed a higher kind of truth 
is, as we have seen, not new in the Romantic period, al 
though it received significant additional emphasis. The im 
portant corollary of the idea was, however, the conception 
of the artist's autonomy in this kind of revelation; his sub 
stantive element, for example, was now not faith but gen 
ius. In its opposition to the 'set of rales', the autonomous 
claim is of course attractive. Keats puts it finely; 

The Genius of Poetry must work out its own salvation 
in a man: It cannot be matured by law and precept, 
but by sensation and watchfulness in itself. That which 
is creative must create itself. 19 

Our sympathy with this rests on the emphasis on a personal 
discipline, which is very far removed from talk of the 'wild* 
or lawless* genius. The difference is there, in Keats, in the 
emphasis on 'the Genius of Poetry', which is impersonal as 
compared with the personal 'genius*. Coleridge put the 
same emphasis on law, with the same corresponding em 
phasis on autonomy: 

No work of true genius dares want its appropriate 
form, neither indeed is there any danger of this. As it 
must not, so genius cannot, be lawless; for it is even 


this that constitutes it genius-the power of acting 

creatively under laws of its own origination. 20 

This is at once more rational and more useful for the male- 
ing of art than the emphasis, at least as common in Ro 
mantic pamphleteering, on an 'artless spontaneity'. Of the 
Art (sensibility) which claims that it can dispense with art 
(skill) the subsequent years hold more than enough ex 

As literary theory, the emphases of Keats and Coleridge 
are valuable. The difficulty is that this kind of statement 
became entangled with other kinds of reaction to the prob 
lem of the artist's relations with society. The instance of 
Keats is most significant, in that the entanglement is less 
and the concentration more. If we complete the sentence 
earlier quoted from him we find: 

I have not the slightest feel of humility towards the 
public, or to anything in existence,-but the eternal 

Being, the Principle of Beauty, and the Memory of 
Great Men. 21 

This is characteristic, as is the famous affirmation: 

I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the 
Heart's affections, and the truth of Imagination. What 
the Imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth 
whether it existed before or not for I have the same 
idea of all our passions as of Love; they are all, in their 
sublime, creative of essential Beauty. . . . The Imagi 
nation may be compared to Adam's dream he awoke 
and found it truth. 22 

But the account of the artist's personality which Keats then 
gives is, in his famous phrase, that of 'Negative Capability 
. . . when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, 
mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact 
and reason*. 28 Or again: 

Men of Genius are great as certain ethereal Chemicals 
operating on the Mass of neutral intellect but they 
have not any individuality, any determined Character 


I would call the top and head of those who have a 
proper self, Men of Power. 24 

It is certainly possible to see this emphasis on passivity as a 
compensatory reaction, but this is less important than the 
fact that Keats's emphasis is on the poetic process rather 
than on the poetic personality. The theory of Negative Ca 
pability could degenerate into the wider and more popular 
theory of the poet as 'dreamer*, but Keats himself worked 
finely, in experience, to distinguish between 'dreamer' and 
*poef, and if in the second Hyperion his formal conclusion 
is uncertain, it is at least clear that what he means by 
*dream' is something as hard and positive as his own skill. 
It is not from the fine discipline of a Keats that the loose 
conception of the romantic artist can be drawn. 

Wordsworth, in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads, shows us 
most clearly how consideration of the poetic process be 
came entangled with more general questions of the artist 
and society. In discussing his own theory of poetic lan 
guage, he is in fact discussing communication. He asserts, 
reasonably and moderately, the familiar attitude to the 

Such faulty expressions, were I convinced they were 
faulty at present, and that they must necessarily con 
tinue to be so, I would willingly take all reasonable 
pains to correct. But it is dangerous to make these 
alterations on the simple authority of a few individuals, 
or even of certain classes of men; for where the un 
derstanding of an Author is not convinced, or his feel 
ings altered, this cannot be done without great injury 
to himself: for his own feelings are his stay and 
support. 25 

This has to be said on the one side, while at the same time 
Wordsworth is saying: 

The Poet thinks and feels in the spirit of human pas 
sions. How, then, can his language differ in any ma 
terial degree from that of all other men who feel viv 
idly and see clearly? 26 


And so: 

Among the qualities . . enumerated as principally 
conducing to form a Poet, is implied nothing differing 
in kind from other men, but only in degree. . . . The 
Poet is chiefly distinguished from other men by a 
greater promptness to think and feel without immedi 
ate external excitement, and a greater power in ex 
pressing such thoughts and feelings as are produced 
in him in that manner. But these passions and thoughts 
and feelings are the general passions and thoughts and 
feelings of men. 27 

Of these chief distinctions, while the first is a description of 
a psychological type, the second is a description of a skill. 
While the two are held in combination, the argument is 
plausible. But in fact, under the tensions of the general 
situation, it became possible to dissociate them, and so to 
isolate the 'artistic sensibility'. 

The matter is exceptionally complex, and what hap 
pened, imder the stress of events, was a series of simplifica 
tions. The obstruction of a certain kind of experience was 
simplified to the obstruction of poetry, which was then 
identified with it and even made to stand for it as a whole. 
Under pressure, art became a symbolic abstraction for a 
whole range of general human experience: a valuable ab 
straction, because indeed great art has this ultimate power; 
yet an abstraction nevertheless, because a general social 
activity was forced into the status of a department or prov 
ince, and actual works of art were in part converted into a 
self-pleading ideology. This description is not offered for 
purposes of censure; it is a fact, rather, with which we have 
to learn to come to terms. There is high courage, and actual 
utility, if also simplification, in Romantic claims for the im 
agination. There is courage, also, in the very weakness 
which, ultimately, we find in the special pleading of per 
sonality. In practice there were deep insights, and great 
works of art; but, in the continuous pressure of living, the 
free play of genius found it increasingly difficult to consort 
with the free play of the market, and the difficulty was not 
solved, but cushioned, by an idealization. The last pages of 

5& CULTimE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

Shelley's Defence of Poetry are painful to read. The bearers 
of a high imaginative skill become suddenly the legislators', 
at the very moment when they were being forced into prac 
tical exile; their description as 'unacknowledged', which, on 
the theory, ought only to be a fact to be accepted, carries 
with it also the felt helplessness of a generation. Then 
Shelley at the same time claims that the Poet 

ought personally to be the happiest, the best, the 
wisest, and the most illustrious of men; 28 

where the emphasis, inescapably, falls painfully on the 
ought. The pressures, here personal as well as general, 
create, as a defensive reaction, the separation of poets from 
other men, and their classification into an idealized general 
person, TPoetf or 'Artist', which was to be so widely and so 
damagingly received. The appeal, as it had to be, is beyond 
the living community, to the 

mediator and . . . redeemer, Time. 20 

Over the England of 1821 there had, after all, to be some 
higher Court of Appeal We are not likely, when we re 
member the lives of any of these men, to be betrayed into 
the irritability of prosecution, but it is well, also, if we can 
avoid the irritability of defence. The whole action has 
passed into our common experience, to Be there, formu 
lated and unformulated, to move and to be examined. *For 
it is less their spirit, than the spirit of the age/ 80 



THE essays of John Stuart Mil on Jeremy Bentham and 
Samuel Taylor Coleridge are among the most remarkable 
documents of the intellectual history of the nineteenth cen 
tury. Their recent reprinting, with an interesting introduc 
tion by Dr F. R. Leavis, was valuable and timely. The 
essays bring together what Mill called 'the two great semi 
nal minds of England in their age', but the result, quite 
evident in a reading of the essays, is a bringing together 
not of two minds but of three. For to watch Mill being in 
fluenced by, and correcting, Bentham and Coleridge is ab 
sorbing and illuminating. We see not only the working of 
an individual and most able mind, but a process which has 
a general representative importance. Mill's attempt to ab 
sorb, and by discrimination and discarding to unify, the 
truths alike of the utilitarian and the idealist positions is, 
after all, a prologue to a very large part of the subsequent 
history of English thinking: in particular, to the greater part 
of English thinking about society and culture. 

If we look at the matter in this way, we shall avoid the 
readiest mistake with regard to these essays; the mistake, 
that is, of supposing that we are reading an impartial judge 
ment of the ideas of Bentham and Coleridge, an authorita 
tive summing-up by a great neutral. Miffs tone is always 
so reasonable, and his professional skill in summary and 
distinction so evident, that such a conclusion seems posi 
tively invited. Yet the essays are not a judicial verdict; they 
are the effort of a particular mind and a very distin 
guished one to reconcile two deeply opposed positions. 
Mill believed that by the exercise of reason and patience all 
such differences could be resolved. Seeing the contrasted 
positions, as was his habit, in an almost solely rational light, 
he believed that reconciliation was possible, if only interest 
and prejudice could be (as he thought not impossible) set 


aside. But the essays are also an event, a particular stage, 
in Mill's own intellectual development. Written in 1838 and 
1840, they belong to a period when Mil's reaction against 
Utilitarianism was at its most critical stage. The particular 
balance or appearance of balance which he here achieved 
was not afterwards fully maintained. The point is under 
lined when we remember that his Utilitarian friends did 
not see the essays as moving from the thesis of Bentham 
through the antithesis of Coleridge to a new synthesis; they 
saw them simply as apostasy, a surrender to 'German 
mysticism*. They may well, narrow dogmatists, have been 
wrong; but at least Mil did not impress them as a neutral. 
Further, almost immediately after tibe essay on Coleridge, 
Mill began moving away from the Coleridgian influence. In 
his Political Economy 9 and especially in his Examination of 
Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy* much of the assent here 
granted to Coleridge is deliberately withdrawn. 

We may suitably begin our more detailed examination of 
the essays with a passage from the essay on Coleridge: 

All students of man and society who possess that first 
requisite for so difficult a study, a due sense of its dif 
ficulties, are aware that the besetting danger is not so 
much of embracing falsehood for truth, as of mistak 
ing part of the truth for the whole. It might be plausi 
bly maintained that in almost every one of the leading 
controversies, past or present, in social philosophy, 
both sides were in the right in what they affirmed, 
though wrong in what they denied; and that if either 
could have been made to take the other's views in ad 
dition to its own, little more would have been needed 
to make its doctrine correct. 1 

It is worth noting how completely intellectualist is Mill's 

method. For in life it is not whether the abstracted opin 
ions of opposed thinkers might profitably complement each 
other, to make what is caEed a 'correct* doctrine. We have 
to ask, indeed, whether such a procedure would, even in 
itself, be useful, considering its tendency to isolate the 'doc 
trines' from those attachments, those particular valuations, 
those living situations, in which alone the 'doctrines* can 


be said to be active. The point is crucial, yet still the piety 
of Mill's hope is genuine. It is worth watching his account 
of the basic opposition: 

Take for instance the question how far mankind have 
gained by civilization. One observer is forcibly struck 
by the multiplication of physical comforts; the ad 
vancement and diffusion of knowledge; the decay of 
superstition; the facilities of mutual intercourse; the 
softening of manners; the decline of war and personal 
conflict; the progressive limitation of the tyranny of the 
strong over the weak; the great works accomplished 
throughout the globe by the cooperation of multi 
tudes: and he becomes that very common character, 
the worshipper of 'our enlightened age'. 2 

Here, fairly enough, is the abstract of Liberalism, and Mill 

Another fixes his attention, not upon the value of these 
advantages, but upon the high price which is paid for 
them; the relaxation of individual energy and courage; 
the loss of proud and self-relying independence; the 
slavery of so large a portion of mankind to artificial 
wants; their effeminate shrinking from even the 
shadow of pain; the dull unexciting monotony of their 
lives, and the passionless insipidity, and absence of any 
marked individuality, in their characters; the contrast 
between the narrow mechanical understanding, pro 
duced by a life spent in executing by ixed rules a fixed 
task, and the varied powers of the man of the woods, 
whose subsistence and safety depend at each instant 
upon his capacity of extemporarily adapting means to 
ends; the demoralizing effect of great inequalities in 
wealth and social rank; and the sufferings of the great 
mass of the people of civilized countries, whose wants 
are scarcely better provided for than those of the sav 
age, while they are bound by a thousand fetters in lieu 
of the freedom and excitement which are his com 
pensations. 8 


This Is an aggregation of a number of kinds of criticism of 

what Mill calls 'Civilization', but which, from the detail of 
certain of its points, might better be called Industrialism. 
Mill remarks: 

No two thinkers can be more entirely at variance than 
the two we have supposedthe worshippers of Civi 
lization and of Independence, of the present and the 
remote past. Yet all that is positive in the opinions of 
either of them is true; and we see how easy it would 
be to choose one's path, if either half of the truth were 
the whole of it, and how great may be the difficulty of 
framing, as it is necessary to do, a set of practical 
maxims which combine both. 4 

This sounds reasonable, but the opposed positions as de 
scribed by Mill contradict each other not only in valuation 
but, at certain points, in fact. The contrast is further con 
fused by the inclusion of arguments which refer to different 
periods of history. Part of the criticism inherent in the latter 
position is criticism of the transition to industrialism; part 
again the contrast, not of the village labourer and the in 
dustrial worker, but of civilized man and Rousseau's Noble 
Savage Mill's 'man of the woods'. It is then difficult to say 
which of the many points is 'positively true', and the idea 
of 'a set of practical maxims which combine both' seems 
absurd. Mill is, in fact, gathering opinions, and arbitrarily 
grouping them, rather than paying attention to the opposi 
tion of values engendered by different orders of experience, 
which arise from different ways of life. He is, at this point, 
nowhere near any kind of lived reality. A Cobbett from one 
position, a Coleridge from another, had their own views, in 
experience, of the Thigh price paid for civilization'; but be 
cause their experience was actual, they were specific about 
the 'civilization'. Cobbett did not see 'the multiplication of 
physical comforts' and 'the sufferings of the great mass of 
the people* as opposing arguments; he saw them as aspects 
of one and the same civilization, and therefore, in their very 
contrast, a fact about the kind of civilization being experi 
enced. Coleridge, in criticizing a 'narrow mechanical under 
standing', had something better to refer to as a positive 


than the 'man of the woods", about whom, after all, neither 
Rousseau nor Mill nor anyone likely to take part in the 

argument knew anything worth writing down; and whom 
we should have to define rather more precisely (savage? 
white trapper?) before we could say, even for the sake of 
argument, whether he is a just symbol of Independence'. 
I press these points because they show the degree to which 
Mill is apt to divorce opinions and valuations both from 
experience and from social reality. 

He is on surer ground, and his normal grasp of his ma 
terial returns, when he describes another opposition: 

So again, one person sees in a very strong light the 
need which the great mass of mankind have of being 
ruled over by a degree of intelligence and virtue su 
perior to their own. He is deeply impressed with the 
mischief done to the uneducated and uncultivated by 
weaning them of all habits of reverence, appealing to 
them as a competent tribunal to decide the most in 
tricate questions, and making them think themselves 
capable, not only of being a light to themselves, but 
of giving the law to their superiors in culture. He sees, 
further, that cultivation, to be carried beyond a cer 
tain point, requires leisure; that leisure is the natural 
attribute of a hereditary aristocracy; that such, a body 
has all the means of acquiring intellectual and moral 
superiority; and he needs be at no loss to endow them 
with abundant motives to it. 5 

This summary is admirable. So too is Mill's exposition of the 
objections to it: 

But there is a thinker of a very different description, 
in whose premises there is an equal portion of truth. 
This is he who says, that an average man, even an 
average member of an aristocracy, if he can postpone 
the interests of other people to his own calculations 
or instincts of self-interest, will do so; that all govern 
ments in all ages have done so, as far as they were 
permitted, and generally to a ruinous extent; and that 
the only possible remedy is a pure democracy, in 


which the people are their own governors, and can 
have no selfish interest in oppressing themselves. 6 

This is not the only line of objection to the former position, 
but it is the one which we should expect Mill to follow, the 
objection which would naturally occur to him, as one 
trained in the Utilitarian kind of thinSdng. He goes on to 
see the progress of this conflict of position in terms of the 
swing of the pendulum: 

Every excess in either direction determines a corre 
sponding reaction; improvement consisting only in 
this, that the oscillation, each time, departs rather less 
widely from the centre, and an ever-increasing tend 
ency is manifested to settle finally in it. T 

It hardly needs emphasis that this view of the matter was 
to become a commonplace: when in doubt, the English im 
agine a pendulum. But still it is inadequate, since it is con 
fined to the development of opinion and neglects the 
changing relations of those actual forces in society which 
seek to move in one or other direction. Yet Mill's statement 
of the opposing political doctrines is much more adequate 
than his exposition of what might be called the 'cultural* 
objections to modem industrial civilization. The methods 
and habits of Utilitarian thinking remained with him, even 
when he was questioning certain Utilitarian positions, or 
acknowledging the merits of positions reached in a differ 
ent way. Consider, for instance, his famous distinction be 
tween his subjects: 

By Bentham, beyond all others, men have been led to 
ask themselves, in regard to any ancient or received 
opinion, Is it true? and by Coleridge, What is the 
meaning of it? 8 

This is just and illuminating, although we must not convict 
Coleridge of any disregard for truth. Yet, taking the dis 
tinction as it stands, there can be no doubt of the side on 
which Mill himself stands. His critique of Bentham is 
founded on the question, Is it true?: 


But is tihds fundamental doctrine of Bentham's political 

philosophy an universal truth? 9 

This, at all important points, is the tone of the enquiry. 
Similarly, with Coleridge, he is sifting for what he considers 
true, and setting aside what is false. There is a point, of 
course, at which one doubts whether there is any significant 
difference between the questions Is it true? and What is 
the meaning of it? But Mill's emphasis serves to underline 
very clearly his own habit of approach. 

Mill is nearer to Bentham than to Coleridge in funda 
mentals. He is, by the same token, nearer to our own nor 
mal habits of thinking. One result of the essays, certainly, 
is a very damaging criticism of Bentham: 

Knowing so little of human feelings, he knew still less 
of the influences by which those feelings are formed: 
all the more subtle workings, both of the mind upon 
itself, and of external things upon the mind, escaped 
him.; and no one, probably, who, in a highly instructed 
age, ever attempted to give a rule to all human con 
duct, set out with a more limited conception either of 
the agencies by which human conduct is, or of those 
by which it should be, influenced. 10 

The comment is a personal one, on Bentham; but it has 
normally been seized on, by those who are opposed to Utili 
tarianism, as a general criticism of the system as a whole. 
It has become, now, an element in that familiar criticism 
of 'systematic' social thinkinga criticism which grounds it 
self on the principle that the systematizers have an inade 
quate knowledge of actual human nature. Mill is careful 
not to make this extension himself, and indeed how could 
he have done so? His own comment on himself lies too 
ready to hand: 

I never was a boy; never played at cricket; it is better 
to let Nature have her way. 11 

Or again: 

Even in the narrowest of my then associates, they be 
ing older men, their ratiocinative and nicely concate- 


nated dreams were at some point or other, and in some 
degree or other, corrected and limited by their experi 
ence of actual realities, while I, a schoolboy fresh from 
the logic school, had never conversed with a reality, 
never seen one, knew not what manner of thing it was, 
had only spun, first other people's and then my own 
deductions from assumed premises. 12 

The notorious education which James Mill imposed on his 
son has been often abused, and with the support of texts 
like these. When I read such comments, I want always to 
enter the marginal note: 'yet the system, after all, produced 
John Stuart Mill'. For good or illand surely, in the main, 
it is for good the severe training produced a fine example 
of a very fine kind of intelligence; that it is not the only 
kind is agreed. Systematic enquiry into the working of hu 
man institutions; systematic attempts to reform them, and 
to devise techniques for their further reformation: these are 
great positive human activities, and the objection to them, 
on the title of Tiuman nature', is not, under its most com 
mon auspices, very impressive. Mill, in emphasizing the 
personal deficiencies of Bentham, is not thereby rejecting 
the characteristic methods of Utilitarian thought. He is, 
rather, applying himself to the problems of a new situa 
tion, and a different one in certain radical respects from 
that which Bentham had been concerned to meet. The ear 
lier Utilitarianism had been a wholly adequate doctrine for 
the rising middle class, seeking confirmation of its growing 
power through reforms directed against the privileges of 
the aristocracy. The doctrine had been coloured, through 
out, by values appropriate to the new methods of produc 
tion; it is true to say that this first period of Utilitarianism, 
in England, served to create the political and social institu 
tions correspondent to the first stages of the Industrial 
Revolution. The climax of this effort was the Reform Bill 
of 1832. Mill, writing in the years immediately following 
the Bill, is concerned with the problems of the next phase, 
Bentham had claimed that good government depended 
upon the responsibility of the governors to 


persons whose interest, whose obvious and recogniza 
ble interest, accords with the end in view, 18 

The Reform Bill had gone a long way toward securing this, 
for that class which was directing the Industrial Revolu 
tion. But now Mill saw tie inevitable extension o the prin 
ciple, and that the 'numerical majority', whose 'obvious 
and recognizable interest* was to be served, had to be dif 
ferently defined. The new item on the agenda was com 
plete political democracy, and Mill, seeing the logical jus 
tice of this, from Bentham's premises as he understood 
them, saw also what he took to be the dangers of extension: 
in particular, a tyranny of opinion and prejudice-the 'will 
of the majority* overriding and perhaps suppressing minor 
ity opinion. When Cobbett had written his Last Hundred 
Days of English Liberty., his concern had been with the 
efforts of an authoritarian government to suppress the most 
dangerous advocates of reform. When Mill came to write 
his essay On Liberty, the emphasis had shifted and Mill 
had moved with his times. The central concern, now, was 
with the preservation of the rights of individuals and minor 
ities against Public Opinion and the democratic State. And 
it was here that he found Coleridge so useful to him, par 
ticularly Coleridge's idea of the 'clerisy' a nationally en 
dowed class, 

for the cultivation of learning, and for diffusing its re 
sults among the community. . . . We consider the de 
finitive establishment of this fundamental principle to 
be one of the permanent benefits which political sci 
ence owes to the Conservative philosophers. 14 

Mill grounded his defence of individual liberty on other 
main arguments, but he saw the usefulness, against the tyr 
anny of 'interest*, of so apparently disinterested a class. 

Even more than the danger of majority tyranny, Mill saw 
when he was writing these essays the danger consequent on 
the success of the first period of the Industrial Revolution, 
of the national life being dominated by laissez-faife com 


Bentham's idea of the world is that of a collection 
of persons pursuing each his separate interest and 
pleasure. 15 

This was freedom, or individual liberty, not as Mill the in 
tellectual had defined it, in terms of the freedom of thought, 
but as the rising industrial class had defined it, with the 
shadow of Bentham to support them, in terms of the free 
dom 'to do as they willed with their own'. Faced with this, 
Mill had to reconsider the bases of Utilitarian thought, and 
he arrived, in consequence, at what is perhaps his central 
judgement on Bentham: 

A philosophy like Bentham's ... can teach the means 
of organizing and regulating the merely business part 
of the social arrangements. ... It will do nothing 
(except sometimes as an instrument in the hands of a 
higher doctrine) for the spiritual interests of society; 
nor does it suffice of itself even for the material in 
terests. . . . All he can do is but to indicate means by 
which, in any given state of the national mind, the 
material interests of society can be protected; saving 
the question, of which others must judge, whether the 
use of those means would have, on the national char 
acter, any injurious influence. 16 

Obviously, here, Coleridge's criticisms were relevant. There 
were his famous questions, in the Constitution of Church 
and State: 

Has the national welfare, have the weal and happiness 
of the people, advanced with the increase of the cir 
cumstantial prosperity? Is the increasing number of 
wealthy individuals that which ought to be understood 
by the wealth of the nation? 17 

Or again: 

It is not uncommon for 100,000 operatives (mark this 
word, for words in this sense are things) to be out 
of employment at once in the cotton districts, and, 
thrown upon parochial relief, to be dependent upon 
hard-hearted taskmasters for food. The Malthusian 


doctrine would indeed afford a certain means of relief, 
if this were not a twofold question. If, when you say 
to a man 'You have no claim upon me; you have your 
allotted part to perform in the world, so have I. In a 
state of nature, indeed, had I food, I should offer you 
a share from sympathy, from humanity; but in this 
advanced and artificial state of society, I cannot afford 
you relief; you must starve. You came into the world 
when it could not sustain you/ What would be this 
man's answer? He would say *You disclaim all con 
nection with me; I have no claims upon you? I can 
then have no duties towards you, and this pistol shall 
put me in possession of your wealth. You may leave 
a law behind you which shall hang me, but what man 
who saw assured starvation before him, ever feared 
hanging?* It is this accursed practice of ever consider 
ing only what seems expedient for the occasion, dis 
joined from ail principle or enlarged systems of action, 
of never listening to the true and unerring impulses of 
our better nature, which has led the colder-hearted 
men to the study of political economy, which has 
turned our Parliament into a real committee of public 
safety. In it is all power vested; and in a few years 
we shall either be governed by an aristocracy, or, what 
is still more likely, by a contemptible democratical oli 
garchy of glib economists, compared to which the 
worst form of aristocracy would be a blessing. 18 

It is a useful reminder of the complexity of reactions in this 
period to note that this comment of Coleridge's might al 
most have been written by Cobbett; certainly the starting 
point of the argument is one that Cobbett repeatedly used, 
and the expected answer of the poor man is one that he 
again and again emphasized. 

What Mill seized on in Coleridge is fairly indicated by 
the phrase 'disjoined from all principle or enlarged systems 
of action'. For Mill was far too intelligent to suppose that 
the deficiencies of a particular system here Benthamism- 
were any sort of argument against system as such. There is 
always a system of some kind: one system may be estab- 


lished and therefore confused with permanent Tataman na 
ture*; another system may challenge it and may be called, 
because it is still in the stage of doctrine, dogmatic and 
abstract The argument against system as such is either fret 
ful or ignorant. What appealed to Mill, in his reconsidera 
tion of Benthamism, was the emphasis implied in Cole 
ridge's key word enlarged. He wanted principle, or enlarged 
systems of action as an improvement on a system compe 
tent only in 'the merely business part of the social arrange 
ments', and insufficiently competent even in that. What 
might this new principle, or enlarged system, be? 

The peculiarity of the Germano-Coleridgian school is, 
that they saw beyond the immediate controversy, to 
the fundamental principles involved in all such contro 
versies. They were the first (except a solitary thinker 
here and there) who inquired with any comprehen 
siveness or depth, into the inductive laws of the exist 
ence and growth of human society. . . * They thus 
produced, not a piece of party advocacy, but a philos 
ophy of society, in the only form in which it is yet 
possible, that of a philosophy of history; not a defence 
of particular ethical or religious doctrines, but a con 
tribution, the largest made by any class of thinkers, to 
wards the philosophy of human culture. 19 

The last word of this extract must be given the emphasis, 

for indeed it is from the time of Coleridge on, as here so 
ably recognized by Mill, that the idea of Culture enters 
decisively into English social thinking. Mill continues: 

The same causes [sc. as those which had led to the 
new emphasis on historical studies] have naturally 
led the same class of thinkers to do what their prede 
cessors never could have done, for the philosophy of 
human culture. For the tendency of their speculations 
compelled them to see in the character of the national 
education existing in any political society, at once the 
principal cause of its permanence as a society, and the 
chief source of its progressiveness: the former by the 
extent to which that education operated as a system of 


restraining discipline; the latter by the degree in which 
it called forth and invigorated the active faculties. Be 
sides, not to have looked upon the culture of the in 
ward man as the problem of problems, would have 
been incompatible with the belief which many of these 
philosophers entertained in Christianity, and the rec 
ognition by all of them of its historical value, and the 
prime part which it has acted in the progress of man 
kind. But here too, let us not fail to observe, they rose 
to principles, and did not stick in the particular case. 
The culture of the human being had been carried to 
no ordinary height, and human nature had exhibited 
many of its noblest manifestations, not in Christian 
countries only, but in the ancient world, in Athens, 
Sparta, Rome; nay, even barbarians, as the Germans, 
or still more unmitigated savages, the wild Indians, 
and again the Chinese, the Egyptians, the Arabs, all 
had their own education, their own culture; a culture 
which, whatever might be its tendency upon the 
whole, had been successful in some respect or other. 
Every form of polity, every condition of society, what 
ever else it had done, had formed its type of national 
character. What that type was, and how it had been 
made what it was, were questions which the meta 
physician might overlook, the historical philosopher 
could not. Accordingly, the views respecting the vari 
ous elements of human culture and the causes influ 
encing the formation of national character, which per 
vade the writings of the Germano-Coleridgian school, 
throw into the shade everything which had been ef 
fected before, or which has been attempted simultane 
ously by any other school. Such views are, more than 
anything else, the characteristic feature of the Goe- 
thian period of German literature; and are richly dif 
fused through the historical and critical writings of the 
new French school, as well as of Coleridge and his 
followers. 20 

The emphasis on Culture, Mill decided, was the way to 
enlarge the Utilitarian tradition. He looked back to the state 


of affairs before the reforming movement into which he 
had been born, and concluded: 

This was not a state of things which could recommend 
itself to any earnest mind. It was sure in no great 
length of time to call forth two sorts of men the one 
demanding the extinction of the institutions and creeds 
which had hitherto existed; the other, that they be 
made a reality: the one pressing the new doctrines to 
their utmost consequences; the other reasserting the 
best meaning and purposes of the old. The first type 
attained its greatest height in Bentham; the last in 
Coleridge. We hold that these two sorts of men, who 
seem to be, and believe themselves to be, enemies, are 
in reality allies. The powers they wield are opposite 
poles of one great force of progression. What was 
really hateful and contemptible was the state which 
preceded them, and which each, in its way, has been 
striving now for many years to improve. 21 

Mill is simplifying, of course, when he speaks of alliance 
between these *two sorts of men'. He is simpHfying, in the 
way that is habitual to him, by abstracting the opinions 
and the speculative intentions from the particular interests 
and forces through which the opinions became active. Yet, 
having recognized the value of Benthamite reform, he had 
now found a way of expressing his conviction that the newly 
reformed industrial civilization was narrow and inadequate. 
Coleridge had worked out this idea of Culture, the court of 
appeal to which all social arrangements must submit. We 
must now look at this idea more closely, in certain passages 
in the Constitution of Church and State which Mill does 
not quote. First, in Coleridge's fifth chapter: 

The permanency of the nation . . . and its progressive- 
ness and personal freedom . . . depend on a continu 
ing and progressive civilization. But civilization is itself 
but a mixed good, if not far more a corrupting in 
fluence, the hectic of disease, not the bloom of health, 
and a nation so distinguished more fitly to be called a 
varnished than a polished people, where this civiliza 
tion is not grounded in cultivation, in the harmonious 


development of those qualities and faculties that char 
acterize our humanity. 22 

Here, clearly, Coleridge is trying to set up a standard of 
Tiealth', to which a more certain appeal may be made than 
to the 'mixed good' of 'civilization'. He defines this standard 
in the word cultivation the first time, in fact, that this word 
had been used to denote a general condition, a 'state or 
habit' of the mind. The word depends, of course, on the 
force of the important eighteenth-century adjective culti 
vated. What Coleridge here calls cultivation was elsewhere, 
as in Mill, to be called culture. 

Coleridge makes the same general point again at the end 
of his discussion of the function of the National Church; 

And of especial importance is it to the objects here 
contemplated, that only by the vital warmth diffused 
by these truths throughout the many, and by the guid 
ing light from the philosophy, which is the basis of 
divinity, possessed by the few, can either the commu 
nity or its rulers fully comprehend, or rightly appre 
ciate, the permanent distinction and the occasional 
contrast between cultivation and civilization; or be 
made to understand this most valuable of the lessons 
taught by history, and exemplified alike in her oldest 
and her most recent records that a nation can never be 
a too cultivated, but may easily become an over- 
civilized, race. 23 

*The permanent distinction, and the occasional contrast*; 
and Coleridge had already spoken of Cultivation as 'the 
ground, the necessary antecedent condition, of both . . * 
permanency and progressiveness'. 

This idea of Cultivation, or Culture, was affirmed, by 
Coleridge, as a social idea, which should be capable of em 
bodying true ideas of value. Mill had written: 

Man is never recognized by Bentham as a being capa 
ble of pursuing spiritual perfection as an end. 24 

That man was so capable, that the pursuit of perfection 
was indeed his overriding business in life, was of course 
widely affirmed elsewhere, especially by Christian writers. 


But for Mill it was Coleridge who first attempted to define, 
in terms of Ms changing society, the social conditions of 
man's perfection. Coleridge's emphasis in his social writings 
is on institutions. The promptings to perfection came in 
deed from 'the cultivated heart' that is to say, from man's 
inward consciousness but, as Burke before him, Coleridge 
insisted on man's need for institutions which should con 
firm and constitute his personal efforts. Cultivation, in fact, 
though an inward was never a merely individual process. 
What in the eighteenth century had been an ideal of per 
sonalitya personal qualification for participation in polite 
society had now, in the face of radical change, to be re 
defined, as a condition on which society as a whole de 
pended. In these circumstances, cultivation, or culture, 
became an explicit factor in society, and its recognition con 
trolled the enquiry into institutions. 

We can now see that as a result of the changes in society 
at the time of the Industrial Revolution, cultivation could 
not be taken for granted as a process, but had to be stated 
as an absolute, an agreed centre for defence. Against mech 
anism, the amassing of fortunes and the proposition of 
utility as the source of value, it offered a different and a 
superior social idea. It became, indeed, the court of appeal, 
by which a society construing its relationships in terms of 
the cash-nexus might be condemned. Grounding itself on 
an idea of 

the harmonious development of those qualities and 
faculties that characterize our humanity, 

this general condition, Cultivation, could be taken as the 
highest observable state of men in society, and the 'perma 
nent distinction and occasional contrast* between it and 
civilization (the ordinary progress of society) drawn and 
emphasized. It was in this spirit that Coleridge examined 
the constitution of the State, and proposed the endowment 
within it of a class dedicated to the preservation and ex 
tension of cultivation. In his general approach he follows 
Burke; but where Burke had found the condition satisfied, 
within the traditional organization of society, Coleridge 
found the condition threatened, under the impact of 


change. In the face of the disintegrating processes of in 
dustrialism, cultivation had now more than ever to be so 
cially assured. The social idea of Culture, now introduced 
into English thinking, meant that an idea had been formu 
lated which expressed value in terms independent of 'civili 
zation', and hence, in a period of radical change, in terms 
independent of the progress of society. The standard of 
perfection, of 'the harmonious development of those quali 
ties and faculties that characterize our humanity', was now 
available, not merely to influence society, but to judge it 
The terms of Coleridge's proposals for an endowed class 
whose business should be 'general cultivation* are worth 
noting. He calls this class the Clerisy, or National Church, 

in its primary acceptation, and original intention, com 
prehended the learned of all denominations; the sages 
and professors of ... all the so-called liberal arts and 
sciences. 25 

He saw this class as the third estate of the realm. 

Now as in the first estate (landowners') the perma 
nency of the nation was provided for; and in the second 
estate (merchants and manufacturers) its progressive- 
ness and personal freedom, while in the king the co 
hesion by interdependence, and the unity of the coun 
try, were established; there remains for the third estate 
only that interest which is the ground, the necessary 
antecedent condition, of both the former. 26 

The maintenance of this Clerisy, whose care was thus the 
'necessary antecedent condition' for both 'permanency' and 
'progressiveness*, was to be assured by a specifically re 
served portion of the national wealth, which Coleridge calls 
the 'Nationalty'. This would be its establishment, as a Na 
tional Church; but the Church was not to be understood 
as only the 'Church of Christ*, for this would 'reduce the 
Church to a religion*, and thence to a mere sect. Theology, 
certainly, would give the 'circulating sap and life', but the 
object of the class as a whole was general cultivation: 

A certain smaller number were to remain at the foun- 


tainhead of the humanities, in cultivating and enlarg 
ing the knowledge already possessed, and in watching 
over the interests of physical and moral science; being 
likewise the instructors of such as constituted, or were 
to constitute, the remaining more numerous classes of 
the order. The members of this latter and far more 
numerous body were to be distributed throughout the 
country, so as not to leave even the smallest integral 
part or division without a resident guide, guardian, 
and instructor; the objects and final intention of the 
whole order being these to preserve the stores and to 
guard the treasures of past civilization, and thus to 
bind the present with the past; to perfect and add to 
the same, and thus to connect the present with the 
future; but especially to diffuse through the whole 
community, and to every native entitled to its laws and 
rights, that quantity and quality of knowledge which 
was indispensable both for the understanding of those 
rights, and for the performance of the duties corre 
spondent. 27 

The national property, which is to maintain this work, 

cannot rightfully, and . . . without foul wrong to the 
nation never has been, alienated from its original pur 
poses. 28 

Where there has been such alienation, the State may rightly 
act to restore such property, and rededicate it to its original 
uses. This will be done through the 'National Church', but 
not necessarily through existing church organizations: 

I do not assert that the proceeds from the Nationalty 
cannot be rightfully vested, except in what we now 
mean by clergymen and the established clergy. I have 
everywhere implied the contrary. 29 

The idea, in all its aspects, bears the peculiar stamp of 
Coleridge's mind. In immediate terms, Mill's comment is 
probably just: 

By setting in a clear light what a national church es 
tablishment ought to be . . .he has pronounced the 
severest satire upon what in fact it is. 80 


Yet for Mill, and for us, the importance lies in the principle. 
Mill found, then, in Coleridge, the enlarged system of 
action which he felt to be necessary. It is probably true to 
say that much of his later work is importantly affected by 
this enlargement of principle, although the directions which 
it took He at some distance from the directions of those 
writers who consciously continued Coleridge's kind of en 
quiry. Mill's later work is dominated by two factors: his 
extension of the methods and claims of Utilitarian reform 
to the interests of the rising working-class; and his effort to 
reconcile democratic control with individual liberty. Such a 
programme was, indeed, to initiate the subsequent main 
line of English social thinking; its inluence, not only on the 
Fabian kind of socialism, but on a wide area of character 
istic modern legislation, is evident. No doubt Mill thought, 
as it is common to think, that the idea of culture, which 
had impressed him in Coleridge, was adequately provided 
for, in terms of a social institution, by the extending system 
of national education. In the latter half of the nineteenth 
century, Mill is so sensible, on particular issues, where a 
Carlyle or even a Ruskin is so patently absurd, that it is 
easy for us to conclude that Mill's enlarged, Tiumanized* 
Utilitarianism was in fact the best outcome that could have 
been wished. Whether this is in fact so, whether this kind 
of development is indeed valuable to us, must be discussed 
at a later point in this enquiry, on the basis of our sub 
sequent experience. What must be emphasized at this stage 
is the way in which what Mill took from Coleridge differs 
from what Coleridge himself offered: an emphasis which is 
certainly necessary if we are to understand the subsequent 
development of the idea of Culture. Mill uses the word 
culture in another important context, when he is- describing, 
in his Autobiography, the effect on him, at a time of emo 
tional crisis, of Wordsworth's poems. These poems, he 

seemed to be the very culture of the feelings, which I 
was in quest of. In them I seemed to draw from a 
source of inward joy, of sympathetic and imaginative 
pleasure, which could be shared in by all human be- 

72 GUI/TUBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

ings; which had no connexion with struggle or im 
perfection, but would be made richer by every im 
provement in the physical or social condition of 
mankind. From them I seemed to learn what would 
be the perennial sources of happiness, when all the 
greater evils of life shall have been removed.* 1 

Such a conclusion is obviously relevant to his earlier ac 
count of the crisis itself: 

In this frame of mind it occurred to me to put the ques 
tion directly to myself: 'Suppose that all your objects 
in life were realized; that all the changes in institutions 
and opinions which you are looking forward to, could 
be completely effected at this very instant: would this 
be a great joy and happiness to you?* And an irrepres 
sible self-consciousness distinctly answered, 'No!' At 
this my heart sank within me; the whole foundation 
on which my life was constructed fell down. 82 

Mill puts the situation so clearly that we all understand 
him, and the movement of mind which he describes has, 
I suppose, become characteristic. These paragraphs are 
now the classical point of reference for those who decide 
that the desire for social reform is ultimately inadequate, 
and that art, the 'source of inward joy', is fortunately al 
ways there as an alternative. But this very common posi 
tion, whether in Mill or others, is rather doubtful. Mill is 
recoiling from a solely rational organization of effort; this 
is only a recoil from the desire for social reform when such 
a desire has its roots in that kind of intellectual attachment. 
Many men have, like the early Mill, based their social think 
ing on that kind of attachment alone, and recoil under the 
inevitable extension of experience is then natural enough. 
The fact that, with sensitive men, the recofl takes the form 
of Mill's kind of attachment to poetry is also understanda 
ble. Poetry, as he describes it, is 'the very culture of the 
feelings', but it is not only this; it has 'no connexion with 
straggle or imperfection' that is to say, it is a separate, 
ideal sphere. Democratic sentiments are retained: the pleas 
ure will *be made richer by every improvement in the physi- 


cal or social condition of mankind'. Meanwhile, however, it 
is not only a promise but a refuge, a source of contact with 
'the perennial sources of happiness*. And this has become 
a very common way of regarding poetry, and art in gen 
eral, with the obvious implied judgement of the rest of 
man's social activity. 

The basic objection to this way of regarding poetry is 
that it makes poetry a substitute for feeling. It does this 
because the normal method of intellectual organization, in 
minds of this kind, is a method which tends to deny the 
substance of feelings, to dismiss them as 'subjective' and 
therefore likely to obscure or hinder the ordinary march of 
thought. If the mind is a 'machine for thinking', then feel 
ing, in the ordinary sense, is irrelevant to its operations. Yet 
the 'machine for thinking' inhabits a whole personality, 
which is subject, as in Mill's case, to complex stresses, and 
even to breakdown. Observing this situation, a mind or 
ganized in such a way conceives the need for an additional 
'department', a special reserve area in which f eeling can be 
tended and organized. It supposes, immediately, that such 
a 'department' exists in poetry and art, and it considers that 
recourse to this reserve area is in fact an 'enlargement' of 
the mind. Such a disposition has become characteristic, and 
both the practice and the appreciation of art have suffered 
from art being thus treated as a saving clause in a bad 

There were elements in the Romantic idea of poetry 
which tended to indulge this kind of false attachment The 
specialization of poetry to the function of *a culture of the 
feelings' can be seen as part of the same movement of mind 
which produced the characteristic rational narrowness of 
Utilitarian thought. Feeling and thought, poetry and ra 
tional enquiry, appeared to be antitheses, to be 'chosen' be 
tween, or to be played off one against the other. But in 
fact they were antitheses within a disruption: the confusion 
of men haunted by this ghost of a 'mind*. 

Coleridge, if Mfll had attended to him, could have made 
this issue clear; made it clear, at least, as an issue, even if 
his own method of organization could not have been trans 
ferred. It was obviously impossible that Mill should realize 


Coleridge's kind of attachment to experience. A whole posi 
tion like that of Coleridge cannot be offered for conviction; 
it is not, and could not be, a suasive element. The most 
that a man like Coleridge can offer is an instance, but, to 
the degree that one realizes Coleridge's position, one real 
izes also that an instance is indeed the most valuable thing 
that can be offered. The kind of thinking which we observe 
in Coleridge centres our attention, not on Mill's rationale of 
a society, but, almost wholly, on the relations between per 
sonal instance and social institution. 

It is possible here only briely to indicate Coleridge's 
fundamental approach. It is, perhaps, best described in a 
characteristically complicated sentence from a letter to 

In short, the necessity of a general revolution in the 
modes of developing and disciplining the human mind 
by the substitution of life and intelligence ... for the 
philosophy of mechanism, which, in everything that is 
most worthy of the human intellect, strikes Death, and 
cheats itself by mistaking clear images for distinct con 
ceptions, and which idly demands conceptions where 
intuitions alone are possible or adequate to the maj 
esty of the Truth. In short, facts elevated into theory 
theory into laws and laws into living and intelligent 
powers. 33 

Or again: 

The groundwork, therefore, of all true philosophy is 
the full apprehension of the difference between the 
contemplation of reason, namely, that intuition of 
things which arises when we possess ourselves, as one 
with the whole, which is substantial knowledge, and 
that which presents itself when transferring reality to 
the negations of reality, to the ever-varying framework 
of the uniform life, we think of ourselves as separated 
beings, and place nature in antithesis to the mind, as 
object to subject, thing to thought, death to life. This 
is abstract knowledge, or the science of the mere un 
derstanding . , . which leads to a science of delusion 


then only when it would exist for itself instead of being 
the instrument of the former (that intuition of tilings 
which arises when we possess ourselves as one with 
the whole) instead of being, as it were, a translation 
of the living word into a dead language, for the pur 
poses of memory, arrangement, and general commu 
nication. 34 

The important distinction is between 'substantial knowl 
edge' and 'abstract knowledge', but the function of the lat 
ter is not denied, a function of 'memory, arrangement, and 
general communication'. The contrast is not between 'think- 
ing' and 'feeling', but between modes of both; the unity 
of the substantial modes of either is insisted upon: 

My opinion is this: that deep thinking is attainable 
only by a man of deep feeling, and that all truth is a 
species of revelation. . . . It is insolent to differ from 
the public opinion in opinion, if it be only opinion? 5 

By deep feeling we make our ideas dim, and this is 
what we mean by our life, ourselves. 36 

This elevation of the spirit above the semblances of 
custom and the senses to a world of spirit, this lif e in 
the idea, even in the supreme and Godlike, which 
alone merits the name of life, and without which our 
organic life is but a state of somnambulism; this it is 
which affords the sole anchorage in the storm, and at 
the same time the substantiating principle of all true 
wisdom, the satisfactory solution of all the contradic 
tions of human nature, of the whole riddle of the 
world. This alone belongs to and speaks intelligibly to 
all alike, the learned and the ignorant, if but the heart 
listens. For alike present in all, it may be awakened 
but it cannot be given. But let it not be supposed, that 
it is a sort of knowledge. No! it is a form of being, or 
indeed it is the only knowledge that truly is, and all 
other science is real only as far as it is symbolical of 
this. 87 

Of course, when Coleridge passes from instance to formula- 


tion lie passes also into a more shadowy, and more debata 
ble, activity. It is even possible to see how Mill made what 
he did of Coleridge's attempts at systematization. There is 
always in Coleridge a mixture of substantial and abstract 
knowledge, by his own definitions, and at times, easily 
enough, he mistook the one for the other. Yet in his major 
emphases he offers something so radically different from 
Bentham, and so different also from Mill's attempted 'en 
largement*, that his influence is not to be construed as that 
of a 'humanizing* check, but rather, for all its incomplete 
ness of formulation, as an alternative conception of man and 
society. Still, such a conception 'may be awakened, but it 
cannot be given'. 

It is from Coleridge, and later from Ruskin, that the con 
struction of 'Culture' in terms of the arts may be seen to 
originate. Yet this, also, is only a partial conclusion, for the 
arts, essentially, are only a symbol for the kind of 'sub 
stantial knowledge' which Coleridge sought to describe. 
The same criterion is at least as necessary in other aspects 
of our whole activity. Coleridge was indeed, as Mill de 
scribed him, a 'seminal mind'; but the seed, like that of 
the parable, has fallen on different kinds of ground. In Mill 
himself, it produced what I have called 'humanized Utili 
tarianism'. In Ruskin and Carlyle (in part working from 
the same sources as Coleridge) it nourished a particular set 
of social principles, very different from those of Mill, yet 
also not without their influence on the subsequent develop 
ment of society. Later again, it joined with the influence 
of T. H. Green, and with the whole idealist school which 
approached the question of the functions of the State in 
ways which Coleridge would have recognized and valued. 
Yet a seminal mind, when it is that of a Coleridge, is not 
to be adequately judged by its solely intellectual harvest. 
Independently of this, and independently even of some of 
his own 'abstract knowledge', Coleridge has remained as 
an instance, in experience, of the very greatest value: 

I never before saw such an abstract of thinking as a 
pure act and energy of thinking as distinguished from 
thought. 38 



IN 1829, in the Edinburgh Review, Carlyle published his 
important essay, Signs of the Times. The essay was his first 
main contribution to the social thought of his time, yet it 
is perhaps also his most comprehensive contribution. It is 
a short essay, of little more than twenty pages, yet it states 
a general position which was to be the basis of all Carlyle's 
subsequent work, and which, moreover, was to establish it 
self in the general thinking of many other writers, and as 
a major element in the tradition of English social criticism. 
It is not easy to distinguish the elements of influence 
which coalesced in this decisive statement. The influence 
of German thought in the preceding forty years is clear: 
the immediately relevant names are Goethe, Schiller, Jean 
Paul and Novalis. Carlyle had already read and written 
widely in this Afield, and the essay on Novalis, for example, 
written in the same year as Signs of the Times, shows evi 
dent relations to it. The contrast of mechanical and dy 
namic thinking is there, for instance, in a quotation from the 
"Fragments in the second volume of the Novalis Schriften 
which he was reviewing. Many of the other ideas, and 
phrases, may be similarly traced. There are, again, signs of 
the influence of Coleridge, who himself had gone to many 
of the same sources, but had also individually developed 
them. Carlyle had already met Coleridge at this time, and 
the relation between the two men, if not always clear, is 
substantial. Carlyle is more systematic, as he is also more 
limited, than Coleridge: a hint from Coleridge becomes a 
position in Carlyle. These and other influences must be ac 
knowledged, yet the originality of Carlyle's essay is still not 
essentially affected. The history of ideas is a dead study if 
it proceeds solely in terms of the abstraction of influences. 
What is important in a thinker like Carlyle is the quality 
of his direct response: the terms, the formulations, the 


morphology of ideas, are properly a secondary matter, and 
as properly, also, the subject of influence. Carlyle is in this 
essay stating a direct response to the England of his times: 
to Industrialism, which he was the first to name: to the 
feel, the quality, of men's general reactions that structure 
of contemporary feeling which is only ever apprehended 
directly; as well as to the character and conflict of formal 
systems and points of view. Signs of the Times, as a phrase, 
carries the right emphasis. 

The essay, although known to students, is not as gen 
erally known as it deserves to be. More than anything else 
of Carlyle's, it requires quotation. We can begin with the 
general description: 

Were we required to characterize this age of ours by 
any single epithet, we should be tempted to call it, not 
an Heroical, Devotional, Philosophical, or Moral Age, 
but, above all others, the Mechanical Age. It is the 
Age of Machinery, in every outward and inward sense 
of that word. . . . Nothing is now done directly, or 
by hand; all is by rule and calculated contrivance. 1 

This proposition is illustrated, first by reference to the 
changes in methods of production: 

On every hand, the living artisan is driven from his 
workshop, to make room for a speedier, inanimate one. 
The shuttle drops from the fingers of the weaver, and 
falls into iron fingers that ply it faster, 2 

Then, there are the consequent social changes: 

What changes, too, this addition of power is introduc 
ing into the Social System; how wealth has more and 
more increased, and at the same time gathered itself 
more and more into masses, strangely altering the old 
relations, and increasing the distance between the rich 
and the poor, will be a question for Political Econo 
mists, and a much more complex and important one 
than any they have yet engaged with. 3 

These are clear statements of a kind of analysis that has 
continued and become familiar; it is easy, reading them, to 


understand Marx's subsequent tribute to this aspect of Car- 
lyle's work. But Garlyle continues his analysis, in another 
direction, which Matthew Arnold, writing Culture and An 
archy, could have acknowledged: 

Not the external and physical alone is now managed 
by machinery, but the internal and spiritual also. . . . 
The same habit regulates not our modes of action 
alone, but our modes of thought and feeling. Men are 
grown mechanical in head and in heart, as well as in 
hand. They have lost faith in individual endeavour, 
and in natural force, of any kind. Not for internal per 
fection, but for external combinations and arrange 
ments, for institutions, constitutions for Mechanism of 
one sort or other, do they hope and struggle. Their 
whole efforts, attachments, opinions, turn on mecha 
nism, and are of a mechanical character. 4 

As examples of this, Carlyle adduces the following: 

An inward persuasion . . . that, except the external, 
there are no true sciences; that to the inward world 
(if there be any) our only conceivable road is through 
the outward; that, in short, what cannot be investi 
gated and understood mechanically, cannot be investi 
gated and understood at all. 5 

The mighty interest taken in mere political arrange 
ments. . . . Were the laws, the government, in good 
order, all were well with us; the rest would care for 
itself! ... So devoted are we to this principle, and 
at the same time so curiously mechanical, that a new 
trade, specially grounded on it, has arisen among us, 
under the name of 'Codification*, or code-making in the 
abstract; whereby any people, for a reasonable con 
sideration, may be accommodated with a patent code; 
more easily than curious individuals with patent 
breeches, for the people does not need to be measured 
first. 6 

Mechanism has now struck its roots down into man's 
most intimate, primary sources of conviction; and is 
thence sending up, over his whole life and activity, 


innumerable stems fruit-bearing and poison-bearing. 
. . . Intellect, the power man has of knowing and be 
lieving, is now nearly synonymous with Logic, or the 
mere power of arranging and communicating. Its im 
plement is not Meditation, but Argument. . . . Our 
first question with regard to any object is not, What 
is it? but, How is it? ... For every Why we must 
have a Wherefore. We have our little theory on aH 
human and divine things. 7 

Religion is now ... for the most part, a wise pru 
dential feeling grounded on mere calculation . . . 
whereby some smaller quantum of earthly enjoyment 
may be exchanged for a far larger quantum of celestial 
enjoyment. Thus Religion too is Profit, a working for 
wages. 8 

This veneration for the physically Strongest has spread 
itself through Literature. . . . We praise a work, not 
as 'true', but as 'strong'; our highest praise is that it 
has 'affected' us. . . . 9 

Our . . . 'superior morality' is properly rather an In 
ferior criminality', produced not by greater love of Vir 
tue, but by greater perfection of Police; and of that far 
subtler and stronger Police, called Public Opinion. 10 

In all senses, we worship and follow after Power. . . . 
No man now loves Truth, as Truth must be loved, with 
an infinite love; but only with a finite love, and as it 
were par amours. Nay, properly speaking, he does not 
believe and know it, but only 'thinks it', and that 'there 
is every probability'l He preaches it aloud, and rushes 
courageously forth with it if there is a multitude huz 
zaing at his back; yet ever keeps looking over his 
shoulder, and the instant the huzzaing languishes, he 
too stops short. 11 

These are the faults of the external attachment, when 
viewed in the light of the inward claims. But; 

To define the limits of these two departments of man's 
activity, which work into one another, and by means 


of one another, so intricately and inseparably, were by 
its nature an impossible attempt Their relative impor 
tance. . . will vary in different times, according to the 
special wants and dispositions of those times. Mean 
while, it seems clear enough that only in the right co 
ordination of the two, and the vigorous forwarding of 
both, does our true line of action lie. Undue cultiva 
tion of the inward or Dynamical province leads to idle, 
visionary, impracticable courses. . . . Undue cultiva 
tion of the outward, again, though less immediately 
prejudicial, and even for the time productive of many 
palpable benefits, must in the long-run, by destroying 
Moral Force, which is the parent of all other Force, 
prove not less certainly, and perhaps still more hope 
lessly, pernicious. This, we take it, is the grand char 
acteristic of our age. 12 

Carlyle wants to see a restoration of balance, in the terms 
he has set. He is writing, not a rejection of his time, but a 
criticism of it: 

These dark features, we are aware, belong more or less 
to other ages, as well as to ours. This faith in Mecha 
nism, in the all-importance of physical things, is in 
every age the common refuge of Weakness and blind 
Discontent. . . . We are aware also, that, as applied 
to ourselves in all their aggravation, they form but half 
a picture. . . . Neither, with all these evils more or 
less clearly before us, have we at any time despaired 
of the fortunes of society. Despair, or even despond 
ency, in that respect, appears to us, In all cases, a 
groundless feeling. We have a faith in the imperisha 
ble dignity of man; in the high vocation to which, 
throughout this his earthly history, he has been ap 
pointed. . . . This age also is advancing. Its very un 
rest, its ceaseless activity, its discontent contains mat 
ter of promise. Knowledge, education are opening the 
eyes of the humblest; are increasing the number of 
thinking minds without limit. This is as it should be, 
far not in turning back, not in resisting, but only in 
resolutely struggling forward, does our Me consist. 


. . . There is a deep-lying struggle in the whole fabric 
of society; a boundless grinding collision of the New 
with the Old. The French Revolution, as is now visi 
ble enough, was not the parent of this mighty move 
ment, but its offspring. . . . The final issue was not 
unfolded in that country: nay it is not yet anywhere 
unfolded. Political freedom is hitherto the object of 
these efforts; but they will not and cannot stop there. 
It is towards a higher freedom than mere freedom 
from oppression by his fellow-mortal, that man dimly 
aims. Of this higher, heavenly freedom, which is 'man's 
reasonable service*, all his noble institutions, his faith 
ful endeavours and loftiest attainments, are but the 
body, and more and more approximated emblem. 13 

The criticism of the characteristics of the age is fundamen 
tal, but the dominant tone, especially of these last para 
graphs, is surely very surprising to a twentieth-century 
reader. For us, now, such phrases as 'the imperishable dig 
nity of man . . . the high vocation . . . resolutely strug 
gling forward* are on one side of the argument; criticism 
of the 'faith in mechanism* on the other. The former argu 
ment now commonly neglects the criticism, while the latter, 
as commonly, has purged itself of strength and hope. The 
idea of balance is not usually one which suggests itself 
when we are thinking of Carlyle; but there is genuine bal 
ance in this essay, as well as a fine, and now rare, unity 
of insight and determination. A man who began in this way 
might well seem qualified to become the most important 
social thinker of his century. 

There was a time, of course, when it was quite widely 
believed that this was in fact what Carlyle became. I sup 
pose that no one believes this now, and certainly I do not 
wish to argue that it is so. The insight lasted in all his 
work; at his most savage he can still, on occasion, uncom 
fortably penetrate our normal assumptions. The limitation, 
as his life's work continued, is to be seen, primarily, in a 
false construction of basic issues of relationship. In this he 
is a victim of the situation which, in Signs of the Times, 
he had described, *This veneration for the physically strong- 


est has spread itself through Literature. . . . In all senses, 
we worship and follow after Power': these are the marks' 
of the sickness which Carlyle observed, and to which he 
himself succumbed. The leading principle of all his later 
social writing is the principle of the strong Leader, the 
Hero, and the subjects who revere him. Carlyle, writing 
himself, becomes the caricature of such a hero. He sees, 
with a terrible clarity, the spiritual emptiness of the char 
acteristic social relationships of his day, 'with Cash Pay 
ment as the sole nexus' between man and man '. . . and 
there are so many things which cash will not pay'. 14 The 
perception disqualifies him, wholly, from acquiescence in 
this construction of relationships; and he is therefore, with 
out argument, a radical and a reformer. In this, however, 
he is isolated, feels himself isolated: the existing framework 
of relationships, the existing society, is against him, neces 
sarily, because he is against it. He feels himself, in this 
situation, cut off from all fruitful social relationships; he 
has, in Burke's words, but by a force of circumstance which 
Burke overlooked, 'nothing of politics but the passions they 
excite'. 15 What he lacks, or feels himself to lack, is power; 
and yet he is conscious of power; conscious, too, of the 
superiority of his insight (which is not to be reduced to a 
merely personal conceit) into the real problems of the day. 
Under this tension the conclusion is not necessary, but it 
has been reached again and again he construes the gen 
erally desirable as what he personally desires; he creates 
the image of the hero, 'the strong man who stands alone', 
the leader, the leader possessed by vision, who shall be 
listened to, revered, obeyed. It is usual to explain this con 
clusion in terms of Carlyle's personal psychology: impo 
tence projecting itself as power. But this, while relevant in 
so far as it can be ascertained, does less than justice to the 
representative quality of Carlyle's conclusion. The phe 
nomenon is indeed general, and has perhaps been espe 
cially marked in the last six or seven generations. The 
explanation is mechanical unless we discriminate, very care 
fully, about the purposes for which the power is wanted. 
In Carlyle's case, essentially, the purposes are positive and 
ennobling; the opposing normality, of the society which lie 


wished to reform, is morally inferior to them in every way. 
This indeed is the tragedy of the situation: that a genuine 
insight, a genuine vision, should be dragged down by the 
very situation, the very structure of relationships, to which 
it was opposed, until a civilizing insight became in its opera 
tion barbarous, and a heroic purpose, a Tiigh vocation*, 
found its final expression in a conception of human relation 
ships which is only an idealized version of industrial class- 
society. The judgement, 'in all senses we worship and fol 
low after Power', returns indeed as a mocking echo. 

The larger part of Carlyle's writing is the imaginative 
recreation of men of noble power. Lacking live men, we 
enter a social contract with a biography. The writings on 
Cromwell, on Frederick the Great, and on others, embody 
this most curious of experiences: a man entering into per 
sonal relations with history, setting up house with the il 
lustrious dead. The more relevant writings, now, are the 
essay on Chartism, the lectures on Hefoes and Hero- 
Worship, the Latter-Day "Pamphlets, Past and Present, 
and Shooting Niagara. Yet the unity of Carlyle's work is 
such that almost everything he wrote has a bearing on his 
main questions; his most complete analysis of Mechanism, 
for example, is to be found in Sartor Resartus, and it is 
there, also, in a brilliant passage, that he named Industrial 
ism for us, and gave it its first definition. 

The essay on Chartism, published in 1839, is a fine ex 
ample of his developed method and convictions. Written 
on the eve of the crisis of the Hungry Forties, it begins- 
with characteristic insight: 

We are aware that, according to the newspapers, 
Chartism is extinct; that a Reform Ministry has *put 
down the chimera of Chartism' in the most felicitous 
effectual manner. So say the newspapers; and yet, 
alas, most readers of newspapers know withal that it 
is indeed the 'chimera* of Chartism, not the reality, 
which has been put down. . . . The living essence of 
Chartism has not been put down. Chartism means the 
bitter discontent grown fierce and mad, the wrong 
condition therefore or the wrong disposition, of the 


Working Classes of England. It is a new name for a 
tning which has had many names, which will yet have 
many. The matter of Chartism is weighty, deep- 
rooted, far-extending; did not begin yesterday; will by 
no means end this day or tomorrow. 16 

After this recognition, and the parallel recognition that it 
is no answer to call the discontent 'mad, incendiary, nefari 
ous', Carlyle proposes the famous 'Condition-of-England* 

Is the condition of the English working people wrong; 
so wrong that rational working men cannot, will not, 
and even should not rest quiet under it? 17 

It is Cobbett's question, and in Cobbetfs manner; and we 
have only to set such a question in the context of what 
passed in this period for political discussion to realize that 
the firmness of it, the essential and central strength of it 
now so easily taken for granted came by no kind of ac 
cident, but from a man with the qualities so often praised 
by Carlyle in others a man strong and reverent. 

When Dickens came to write Hard Times, book in 
which there is a great deal of Carlyle one of the things 
against which he turned his mocking invective was the 
procedure of systematic enquiry into just this 'Condition-of- 
England question'-Mr Gradgrind's Observatory, with its 
'deadly statistical clock'. It is a measure of the difference 
between Carlyle and Dickens-an essential difference of hu 
man seriousness that Carlyle makes no such trivial error. 
He criticizes imperfect statistics, but his demand, rightly, 
is for the evidence, for rational enquiry, so that the Legis 
lature will not go on legislating in the dark'. The failure 
to seek such evidence he sees, again rightly, as a symptom 
of the spirit of laissez-faire. The essay becomes a full-scale 
assault on the laissez-faire idea: 

That self-cancelling Donothingism and Laissez-faire 
should have got so ingrained into our Practice, is the 
source of all these miseries. 18 


This eighteenth-century doctrine, as Carlyle calls it, 

still to prolong itself into the Nineteenth which, how 
ever, is no longer the time for it! . . . It was a lucky 
century that could get it so practised; a century which 
had inherited richly from its predecessors; and also 
which did, not unnaturally, bequeath to its successors 
a French Revolution, general overturn, and reign of 
terror; intimating, in most audible thunder, conflagra 
tion, guillotinement, cannonading and universal war 
and earthquake, that such century with its practices 
had ended. 

The movement of which the French Revolution was a part 
is, however, not yet ended: 

These Chartisms, Radicalisms, Reform Bill, Tithe Bill, 
and infinite other discrepancy, and acrid argument 
and jargon that there is yet to be, are our French Rev 
olution: God grant that we, with our better methods, 
may be able to transact it by argument alone. 20 

Carlyle recognizes part of this movement as the struggle 
for democracy. But to him, here as later, democracy is 
merely a negative solution: 

All men may see, whose sight is good for much, that 
in democracy can lie no finality; that with the com- 
pletest winning of democracy there is nothing yet won 
except emptiness, and the free chance to win. 21 

Carlyle sees democracy, in fact, as in one sense an expres 
sion of the same laissez-faire spirit: a cancelling of order 
and government, under which men can be left free to fol 
low their own interests. Any such criticism of democracy, 
read now, is only too likely to meet immediate prejudice; 
we have all learned to shout 'fascist* at it. Yet the criticism 
has a certain justice, and is, indeed, a most relevant criti 
cism of that kind of democracy which, for example, reached 
its climax in the Reform Bill of 1832. Whenever democ 
racy is considered as solely a political arrangement, it is 
open to Carlyle's charge. A large part of the spirit of de- 


mocracy in our kind of society is in fact the spirit of laissez- 
faire, extended to new interests and creating in consequence 
new kinds of problem. 

Carlyle's call is for government; for more government, 
not less; more order, not less. This, lie represents, is the de 
mand of the English working people; and in essence lie is 
again right, and has continued right-the characteristic 
movements of the English working class, while certainly 
democratic in the wide sense, have been in the direction of 
more government, more order, more social control. Carlyle, 
however, interprets this demand in his own way: 

What is the meaning of the 'five points', if we will un 
derstand them? What are all popular commotions and 
maddest bellowings, from Peterloo to the Place-de- 
Greve itself? Bellowings, inarticulate cries as of a 
dumb creature in rage and pain; to the ear of wisdom 
they are inarticulate prayers: 'Guide me, govern me! 
I am mad and miserable, and cannot guide myself I' 
Surely of all 'rights of man", this right of the ignorant 
man to be guided by the wiser, to be, gently or forci 
bly, held in the true course by him, is the indisputa- 
blest. Nature herself ordains it from the first; Society 
struggles towards perfection by enforcing and accom 
plishing it more and more. If Freedom have any mean 
ing, it means enjoyment of this right, wherein all other 
rights are enjoyed. 22 

In these last sentences, Carlyle is repeating a point that will 
be remembered from Burke, and, characteristically, it is 
again seen as the condition of 'Society struggling towards 
perfection*. Where Burke, however, saw an adequate rul 
ing class ready made, Carlyle saw only the dereliction of 
duty by the governing classes in society. As his thinking 
develops, and particularly in his later writings, his call is to 
the classes with power to equip themselves for the right 
exercise of power: to make themselves an active and re 
sponsible governing class, and purge themselves of *donoth- 
ingism'. The call was addressed by Carlyle to the aristoc 
racy, but it was most heeded in the middle class, where it 
became the basis of the appeal of reformers like Kingsley. 


The call to the aristocracy was meanwhile noted by Dis 
raeli; the relations between Carlyle's Chartism and Disrae 
li's Sybil are very close. 

Carlyle himself, more certainly in Chartism than else 
where, had his own specific proposals. He was opposed, not 
only to the general spirit of laissez-faire, but to what he 
called Paralytic Radicalism, which, knowing the misery of 
industrial England, can refer it only to 'time and general 
laws'. He observes in his best manner: 

They are an unreasonable class who cry 'Peace, peace', 
when there is no peace. But what kind of class are 
they who cry, 'Peace, peace, have I not told you that 
there is no peace!' 23 

Carlyle's proposals, against these 'practical men', are two: 
first, popular education; second, planned emigration. The 
latter, which had indeed been a specific since the first im 
pact of Malthus, and which Cobbett, for good reasons, had 
fiercely opposed, was to become a major element in re 
formist feeling. It was, of course, the surplus working peo 
ple who were to emigrate, under the leadership (literally) 
of unemployed intellectuals and half-pay officers. The only 
thing in this proposal that reflects credit on Carlyle is his 
contingent contempt for the advice to 'stop breeding', again 
addressed only to the working poor. He is as eloquent 
against Malthus as Cobbett had been: 

Smart Sally in our alley proves ail-too fascinating to 
brisk Tom in yours: can Tom be called on to make 
pause, and calculate the demand for labour in the 
British Empire first? . . . O wonderful Malthusian 
prophets! Millenniums are undoubtedly coming, must 
come one way or the other; but will it be, think you, 
by twenty millions of working people simultaneously 
striking work in that department? 24 

The other proposal, for Popular Education, was equally, 
and more fortunately, influential. Carlyle is for practical be 
ginnings: 'the Alphabet first' 'the indispensable beginning 
of everything': handicraft . . . and the habit of the merest 


logic'. These things must be done, even while recognizing 
their inadequacy: 

An irreverent knowledge is no knowledge; may be a 
development of the logical or other handicraft faculty 
inward or outward; but is no culture of the soul of a 

man. 25 

The reservation is important; it is the reservation which the 
word culture was to embody, in criticism of many kinds of 
education. But Carlyle insisted, nevertheless, that funda 
mental, State-promoted education must be begun: 

To impart the gift of thinking to those who cannot 
think, and yet who could in that case think: this, one 
would imagine, was the first function a government 
had to set about discharging. 26 

Education is thus the central theme of the general demand 
for 'more government*. 

The Chartism essay contains the greater part of what is 
best in Carlyle's social thinking. In practical effect as in 
the proposals for popular education and planned emigra 
tionit is not really very different from Utilitarianism; and 
in its call for more government it is a move in the same 
direction as that which the second phase of radical Utili 
tarianism was to take. The decisive emphasis is on the need 
to transform the social and human relationships hitherto 
dictated by the laws* of political economy. This emphasis, 
humane and general, was in fact to be more influential than 
Carlyle's alternative construction of heroic leadership and 
reverent obedience. 

After Chartism, the balance, or comparative baknce, of 
Carlyle's first positions is lost. Past and Present is eloquent, 
and the portrait of Abbot Samson and his mediaeval com 
munity is perhaps the most substantial, as it is also the most 
literal, of all the visions of mediaeval order which the critics 
of nineteenth-century society characteristically attempted. 
But, while it was possible to expose the deficiencies of In 
dustrialism by contrast with selected aspects of a feudal 
civilization, the exercise was of no help to Carlyle, or to 
his readers, in the matter of perceiving the contemporary 


sources of community. The heroically drawn Samson, like 
the figures celebrated in Heroes and Hero-Worship, under 
lines the steady withdrawal from genuinely social thinking 
into the preoccupations with personal power. In the Latter- 
Day Pamphlets the decisive shift has taken place; it is to 
the existing holders of power the Aristocracy, the 'Captains 
of Industry' 27 that Carlyle looks for leadership in the re 
organization of society; the call is only for them to fit them 
selves for such leadership, and to assume it. By the time 
of Shooting Niagara this call has become a contemptuous 
absolutism, and the elements which made the former criti 
cism humane have virtually disappeared. The recognition 
of the dignity of common men has passed into the kind of 
contempt for the 'masses' Swarmery, 'Sons of the Devil, 
in overwhelming majority*, 28 iDlockheadism, gullibility, 
bribeability, amenability to beer and balderdash' 29 which 
has remained a constant element in English thought. 

The idea of culture as the whole way of living of a people 
receives in Carlyle a marked new emphasis. It is the ground 
of his attack on Industrialism: that a society, properly so 
called, is composed of very much more than economic re 
lationships, with 'cash payment the sole nexus": 

'Supply and demand' we will honour also; and yet 
how many 'demands' are there, entirely indispensable, 
which have to go elsewhere than to the shops, and 
produce quite other than cash, before they can get 
their supply. 80 

The emphasis which Carlyle commonly gave to these other 
lands of demand is closely related to his characteristic con 
ception of the 'genius', the Tiero as man of letters'. He saw 
the neglect of such a man, and of the values which he rep 
resented, as a main symptom of the disorganization of so 
ciety by the forces which elsewhere he attacked: 

Complaint is often made, in these times, of what we 
call the disorganized condition of society; how ill many 
arranged forces of society fulfil their work; how many 
powerful forces are seen working in a wasteful, chaotic, 
altogether unarranged manner. It is too just a com- 


plaint, as we all know. But perhaps, if we look at this 
o Books and the Writers of Books, we shall ind here, 
as it were, the summary of all other disorganization; 
a sort of hearty from which, and to which, all other 
confusion circulates in the world. . . . That a wise 
great Johnson, a Burns, a Rousseau, should be taken 
for some idle nondescript, extant in the world to amuse 
idleness, and have a few coins and applause thrown 
in, that he might live thereby; this perhaps, as before 
hinted, will one day seem a still absurder phasis of 
things. Meanwhile, since it is the spiritual always 
that determines the material, this same Man-of-Letters 
Hero must be regarded as our most important modern 
person. He, such as he may be, is the soul of all. 
What he teaches, the whole world will do and make. 
The world's manner of dealing with him is the most 
significant feature of the world's general position. 31 

The relation of this to the Romantic idea of the artist is 
clear. Carlyle was a contemporary of the younger genera 
tion of Romantic poets, and his views on this subject are 
very similar to those of, say, Shelley. This can be readily 
seen when Carlyle writes of his ^Man-of-Letters Hero': 

Whence he came, whither he is bound, by what ways 
he arrived, by what he might be furthered on his 
course, no one asks. He is an accident in society. He 

wanders like a wild Ishmaelite, in a world of which he 
is as the spiritual light, either the guidance or the mis 
guidance. 82 

Carlyle's share in the formation of the characteristic mod 
em idea of the artist (to use our own generic term) must, 
then, be acknowledged. The specific development of this 
idea as one of the main lines of criticism of the new kind 
of industrial society must again be noted. It is here that the 
idea of culture as the body of arts and learning, and the 
idea of culture as a body of values superior to the ordinary 
progress of society, meet and combine. Carlyle, even when 
he appealed to the leadership of the aristocracy and cap 
tains of industry, never failed to emphasize this other con- 


ception of a 'spiritual aristocracy', a faigHy cultivated and 
responsible minority, concerned to define and emphasize 
the highest values at which society must aim. In the gen 
eral anger of Shooting Niagara he warns this class to set 
aside Poetry and Fiction, in order to 'write the History of 
England as a kind of Bible*, and to concentrate on rethink 
ing of our basic social assumptions. But this, although sig 
nificant of Carlyle it is his own kind of work, as poetry was 
Shelley's does not change the central emphasis, on the 
need for a class of such men Writing and Teaching 
Heroes' whose concern is with the quality of the national 
life. This had been Coleridge's idea of the National Church, 
the Clerisy. Carlyle, in different terms, makes the same 
proposal, for an ^organic Literary Class'. He is not sure of 
the best arrangements for such a class, but 

If you ask, Which is the worst? I answer: This which 
we now have, that Chaos should sit umpire in it; this 
is the worst 33 

It is not a question of 'money-furtherances' to individual 

The result to individual Men of Letters is not the mo 
mentous one; they are but individuals, an infinitesimal 
fraction of the great body; they can struggle on, and 
live or else die, as they have been wont. But it deeply 
concerns the whole society, whether it will set its light 
on high places, to walk thereby. ... I call this 
anomaly of a disorganic Literary Class the heart of all 
other anomalies, at once product and parent. 84 

The idea of such an 6lite, for the common good of society, 

has not been lost sight of, down to our own day. All that 
now needs emphasis, with Carlyle as with Coleridge, and 
as with Matthew Arnold after them, is that the then exist 
ing organization of society, as they understood it, offered no 
actual basis for the maintenance of such a class. The separa 
tion of the activities grouped as 'culture* from the main 
purposes of the new kind of society was the ground of 


Never, till about a hundred years ago, was there seen 
any figure of a Great Soul living apart in that anoma 
lous manner; endeavouring to speak forth the inspira 
tion that was in him by Printed Books, and find place 
and subsistence by what the world would please to 
give him for doing that. Much had been sold and 
bought, and left to make its own bargain in the market 
place; but the inspired wisdom of a Heroic Soul never 
till then, in that naked manner. 35 

This was the immediate criterion by which the faulty or 
ganization, the narrow purposes, of the new society might 
be perceived. It is in these terms, reinforced by more gen 
eral conclusions, that Culture came to be defined as a sepa 
rate entity and a critical idea. 

Of Carlyle himself, much more might be said. He was 
in every way so remarkable a man that the contrast be 
tween the ideas which he deposited and the total experience 
within which they had immediate meaning holds more 
than the common irony. His influence was deep and wide, 
and we shall catch many echoes of him as we proceed, 
down to our own century. The faults, alike of the man and 
of Jais influence, remain obvious. But there is one common 
word of his which continues to express his essential quality: 
the word reverence, not for him, but in Mm: the governing 
seriousness of a living effort, against which every cynicism, 
every kind of half -belief , every satisfaction in indifference, 
may be seen and placed, in an ultimate human contrast. 



OUR understanding of the response to industrialism would 
be incomplete without reference to an interesting group of 
novels, written at the middle of the century, which not only 
provide some of the most vivid descriptions of life in an 
unsettled industrial society, but also illustrate certain com 
mon assumptions within which the direct response was un 
dertaken. There are the facts of the new society, and there 
is this structure of feeling, which I will try to illustrate from 
Mary Barton, North and South, Hard Times, Sybil, Alton 
Locke, and Felix Holt. 

Mart/ Barton (1848) 

Mary Barton, particularly in its early chapters, is the most 
moving response in literature to the industrial suffering of 
the 18403. The really impressive thing about the book is 
the intensity of the effort to record, in its own terms, the 
feel of everyday life in the working-class homes. The 
method, in part, is that of documentary record, as may be 
seen in such details as the carefully annotated reproduction 
of dialect, the carefully included details of food prices in 
the account of the tea-party, the itemized description o 
the furniture of the Bartons* living-room, and the writing- 
out of the ballad (again annotated) of The Oldham 
Weaver. The interest of this record is considerable, but the 
method has, nevertheless, a slightly distancing effect. Mrs 
Gaskell could hardly help corning to this life as an observer, 
a reporter, and we are always to some extent conscious of 
this. But there is genuine imaginative re-creation in her ac 
counts of the walk in Green Heys Fields, and of tea at the 
Bartons* house, and again, notably, in the chapter Poverty 
and Death where John Barton and his friend find the starv 
ing family in the cellar. For so convincing a creation of the 


characteristic feelings and responses of families of this land 
(matters more determining than the material details on 
which the reporter is apt to concentrate) the English novel 
had to wait, indeed, for the early writing of D. H. Lawrence. 
If Mrs Gaskell never quite manages the sense of full par 
ticipation which would finally authenticate this, she yet 
brings to these scenes an intuitive recognition of feelings 
which has its own sufficient conviction. The chapter Old 
Alice's History brilliantly dramatizes the situation of that 
early generation brought from the villages and the country 
side to the streets and cellars of the industrial towns. The 
account of Job Legh, the weaver and naturalist, vividly em 
bodies that other kind of response to an urban industrial 
environment; the devoted, lifelong study of living creatures 
a piece of amateur scientific work, and at the same time 
an instinct for living creatures which hardens, by its very 
contrast with its environment, into a kind of crankiness. In 
the factory workers walking out in spring into Green Keys 
Fields; in Alice Wilson, remembering in her cellar the ling- 
gathering for besoms in the native village that she will never 
again see; in Job Legh, intent on his impaled insects these 
early chapters embody the characteristic response of a gen 
eration to the new and crushing experience of industrialism. 
The other early chapters movingly embody the continuity 
and development of the sympathy and cooperative instinct 
which were already establishing a main working-class 

The structure of feeling from which Mary Barton begins 
is, then, a combination of sympathetic observation and of a 
largely successful attempt at imaginative identification. If 
it had continued in this way, it might have been a great 
novel of its kind. But the emphasis of the method changes, 
and there are several reasons for this. One reason can be 
studied in a curious aspect of the history of the writing of 
the book. It was originally to be called John Barton. As 
Mrs Gaskell wrote later: 

Round the character of John Barton all the others 
formed themselves; he was my hero, the person with 
whom all my sympathies went. 1 

96 OOTLTtmE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

And she added: 

The character, and some of the speeches, are exactly a 

poor man I know. 1 

The change of emphasis which the book subsequently un 
derwent, and the consequent change of title to Mary Bar 
ton, seem to have been made at the instance of her pub 
lishers, Chapman and Hall. The details of this matter are 
still obscure, but we must evidently allow something for 
this external influence on the shape of the novel. Certainly 
the John Barton of the later parts of the book is a very 
shadowy figure. In committing the murder, he seems to put 
himself not only beyond the range of Mrs GaskelFs sym 
pathy (which is understandable), but, more essentially, 
beyond the range of her powers. The agony of conscience 
is there, as a thing told and sketched, but, as the crisis of 
"my hero; the person with whom all my sympathies went', 
it is weak and almost incidental. This is because the novel 
as published is centred on the daughter her indecision be 
tween Jem Wilson and Tier gay lover, Harry Carson'; her 
agony in Wilson's trial; her pursuit and last-minute rescue 
of the vital witness; the realization of her love for Wilson: 
all this, the familiar and orthodox plot of the Victorian novel 
of sentiment, but of little lasting interest. And it now seems 
incredible that the novel should ever have been planned 
in any other way. If Mrs Gaskell had written 'round the 
character of Mary Barton all the others formed themselves', 
she would have confirmed our actual impression of the fin 
ished book. 

Something must be allowed for the influence of her pub 
lishers, but John Barton must always have been cast as the 
murderer, with the intention perhaps of showing an essen 
tially good man driven to an appalling crime by loss, suffer 
ing and despair. One can still see the elements of this in the 
novel as we have it, but there was evidently a point, in its 
writing, at which the flow of sympathy with which she be 
gan was arrested, and then, by the change of emphasis 
which the change of title records, diverted to the less com 
promising figure of the daughter. The point would be less 
important if it were not characteristic of the structure of 


feeling within which she was working. It is not only that she 
recoils from the violence of the murder, to the extent of 
being unable even to enter it as the experience of the man 
conceived as her hero. It is also that, as compared with the 
carefully representative character of the early chapters, the 
murder itself is exceptional. It is true that in 1831 a Thomas 
Ashton, of Pole Bank, Werneth, was murdered under some 
what similar circumstances, and that the Ashton family ap 
pear to have taken the murder of Carson as referring to 
this. Mrs Gaskell, disclaiming the reference in a letter to 
them, turned up some similar incidents in Glasgow at about 
the same time. But in fact, taking the period as a whole, 
the response of political assassination is so uncharacteristic 
as to be an obvious distortion. The few recorded cases only 
emphasize this. Even when one adds the cases of intimida 
tion, and the occasional vitriol-throwing during the deliber 
ate breaking of strikes, it remains true, and was at the time 
a subject of surprised comment by foreign observers, that 
the characteristic response of the English working people, 
even in times of grave suffering, was not one of personal 
violence. Mrs Gaskell was under no obligation to write a 
representative novel; she might legitimately have taken a 
special case. But the tone elsewhere is deliberately repre 
sentative, and she is even, as she says, modelling John Bar 
ton on *a poor man I know'. The real explanation, surely, is 
that John Barton, a political murderer appointed by a trade 
union, is a dramatization of the fear of violence which was 
widespread among the upper and middle classes at the 
time, and which penetrated, as an arresting and controlling 
factor, even into the deep imaginative sympathy of a Mrs 
Gaskell. This fear that the working people might take mat 
ters into their own hands was widespread and characteris 
tic, and the murder of Harry Carson is an imaginative 
working-out of this fear, and of reactions to it, rather than 
any kind of observed and considered experience. 

The point is made clearer when it is remembered that 
Mrs Gaskell planned the murder herself, and chose, for tibe 
murderer, *my hero, the person with whom all my sympa 
thies went'. In this respect the act of violence, a sudden 
aggression against a man contemptuous of the sufferings of 


the poor, looks very much like a projection, with which, 
in the end, she was unable to come to terms. The imagina 
tive choice of the act of murder and then the imaginative 
recoil from it have the effect of raining the necessary in 
tegration of feeling in the whole theme. The diversion to 
Mary Barton, even allowing for the publishers' influence, 
must in fact have been welcome. 

Few persons felt more deeply than Elizabeth Gaskell the 
sufferings of the industrial poor. As a minister's wife in 
Manchester, she actually saw this, and did not, like many 
other novelists, merely know it by report or occasional 
visit. Her response to the suffering is deep and genuine, but 
pity cannot stand alone in such a structure of feeling. It is 
joined, in Mary Barton, by the confusing violence and fear 
of violence, and is supported, finally, by a kind of writing- 
off, when the misery of the actual situation can no longer 
be endured. John Barton dies penitent, and the elder Carson 
repents of his vengeance and turns, as the sympathetic ob 
server wanted the employers to turn, to efforts at improve 
ment and mutual understanding. This was the character 
istic humanitarian conclusion, and it must certainly be 
respected. But it was not enough, we notice, for the persons 
with whom Mrs GaskelTs sympathies were engaged. Mary 
Barton, Jern Wilson, Mrs Wilson, Margaret, Will, Job Legh 
all the objects of her real sympathy end the book far re 
moved from the situation which she had set out to examine. 
All are going to Canada; there could be no more devastat 
ing conclusion. A solution within the actual situation might 
be hoped for, but the solution with which the heart went 
was a cancelling of the actual difficulties and the removal 
of the persons pitied to the uncompromised New World. 

North and South (1855) 

Mrs GaskelTs second industrial novel, North and South, 
is less interesting, because the tension is less. She takes up 
here her actual position, as a sympathetic observer. Mar 
garet Hale, with the feelings and upbringing of the daugh 
ter of a Southern clergyman, moves with her father to 
industrial Lancashire, and we follow her reactions, her ob- 


servations and her attempts to do what good she can. Be 
cause this is largely Mrs GaskelTs own situation, the in 
tegration of the book is markedly superior. Margaref s 
arguments with the mill-owner Thornton are interesting and 
honest, within the political and economic conceptions of 
the period. But the emphasis of the novel, as the lengthy 
inclusion of such arguments suggests, is almost entirely now 
on attitudes to the working people, rather than on the at 
tempt to reach, imaginatively, their feelings about their 
lives. It is interesting, again, to note the manner of the 
working-out. The relationship of Margaret and Thornton 
and their eventual marriage serve as a unification of the 
practical energy of the Northern manufacturer with the 
developed sensibility of the Southern girl: this is stated al 
most explicitly, and is seen as a solution. Thornton goes back 
to the North 

to have the opportunity of cultivating some intercourse 
with the hands beyond the mere 'cash nexus', 2 

Humanized by Margaret, he will work at what we now call 
'the improvement of human relations in industry'. The con 
clusion deserves respect, but it is worth noticing that it is 
not only under Margaret's influence that Thornton will at 
tempt this, but under her patronage. The other manu 
facturers, as Thornton says, "will shake their heads and look 
grave' at it. This may be characteristic, but Thornton, 
though bankrupt, can be the exception, by availing himself 
of Margaret's unexpected legacy. Money from elsewhere, in 
fact by that device of the legacy which solved so many 
otherwise insoluble problems in the world of the Victorian 
novel will enable Thornton, already affected by the supe 
rior gentleness and humanity of the South, to make his 
humanitarian experiment. Once again Mrs Gaskell works 
out her reaction to the insupportable situation by going 
in part adventitiously outside it. 

Hard Times (1854) 

Ordinarily Dickens's criticisms of the world he lives in 
are casual and incidental a matter of including among 


the ingredients of a book some indignant treatment of 
a particular abuse. But in Hard Times he is for once 
possessed by a comprehensive vision, one in which the 
inhumanities of Victorian civilization are seen as fos 
tered and sanctioned by a hard philosophy, the ag 
gressive formulation of an inhumane spirit. 3 

This comment by F. R. Leavis on Hard Times serves to 
distinguish Dickens's intention from that of Mrs Gaskell in 
Mary Barton. Hard Times is less imaginative observation 
than an imaginative judgement. It is a judgement of social 
attitudes, but again it is something more than North and 
South. It is a thorough-going and creative examination of 
the dominant philosophy of industrialism of the hardness 
that Mrs Gaskell saw as little more than a misunderstand 
ing, which might be patiently broken down. That Dickens 
could achieve this more comprehensive understanding is 
greatly to the advantage of the novel. But against this we 
must set the fact that in terms of human understanding of 
the industrial working people Dickens is obviously less suc 
cessful than Mrs Gaskell: his Stephen Blackpool, in relation 
to the people of Mary Barton, is little more than a diagram 
matic figure. The gain in comprehension, that is to say, has 
been achieved by the rigours of generalization and abstrac 
tion; Hard Times is an analysis of Industrialism, rather than 
experience of it. 

The most important point, in this context, that has to be 
made about Hard Times is a point about Thomas Grad- 
grind. Josiah Bounderby, the other villain of the piece, is a 
simple enough case. He is, with rough justice, the embodi 
ment of the aggressive money-making and power-seeking 
ideal which was a driving force of the Industrial Revolu 
tion. That he is also a braggart, a liar and in general per 
sonally repellent is of course a comment on Dickens's 
method. The conjunction of these personal defects with the 
aggressive ideal is not (how much easier things would be 
if it were) a necessary conjunction. A large part of the Vic 
torian reader's feelings against Bounderby (and perhaps a 
not inconsiderable part of the twentieth-century intellec 
tual's) rests on the older and rather different feeling that 


trade, as such, is gross. The very name (and Dickens uses 
his names with conscious and obvious effect) , incorporating 
bounder, incorporates this typical feeling. The social criti 
cism represented by bounder is, after all, a rather different 
matter from the question of aggressive economic individu 
alism. Dickens, with rough justice, fuses the separate reac 
tions, and it is easy not to notice how one set of feelings is 
made to affect the other. 

The difficulty about Thomas Gradgrind is different in 
character. It is that the case against him is so good, and his 
refutation by experience so masterly, that it is easy for the 
modern reader to forget exactly what Gradgrind is. It is 
surprising how common is the mistake of using the remem 
bered name, Gradgrind, as a class-name for the hard Vic 
torian employer. The valuation which Dickens actually 
asks us to make is more difficult. Gradgrind is a Utilitarian: 
seen by Dickens as one of the feeloosofers against whom 
Cobbett thundered, or as one of the steam-engine intellects 
described by Carlyle. This line is easy enough, but one 
could as easily draw another: say, Thomas Gradgrind, Ed 
win Chadwick, John Stuart Mill. Chadwick, we are told, 
was 'the most hated man in England', and he worked by 
methods, and was blamed for 'meddling*, in terms that are 
hardly any distance from Dickens's Gradgrind. Mill is a 
more difficult instance (although the education of which he 
felt himself a victim will be related, by the modern reader, 
to the Gradgrind system) . But it seems certain that Dickens 
has Mil's Political Economy (1849) verv much in mind in 
his general indictment of the ideas which built and main 
tained Coketown. (Mill's reaction, it may be noted, was the 
expressive 'that creature Dickens'. 4 ) It is easy now to real 
ize that Mill was something more than a Gradgrind. But 
we are missing Dickens's point if we fail to see that in con 
demning Thomas Gradgrind, the representative figure, we 
are invited also to condemn the kind of thinking and the 
methods of enquiry and legislation which in fact promoted 
a large measure of social and industrial reform. One won 
ders, for example, what a typical Fabian feels when he is 
invited to condemn Gradgrind, not as an individual but as 
a type. This may, indeed, have something to do with the 


common error of memory about Gradgrind to which I have 
referred. Public commissions, Blue Books, Parliamentary 
legislation all these, in the world of Hard Timesaxe 

For Dickens is not setting Reform against Exploitation. 
He sees what we normally understand by both as two sides 
of the same coin, Industrialism. His positives do not lie in 
social improvement, but rather in what he sees as the ele 
ments of human nature personal kindness, sympathy, and 
forbearance. It is not the model factory against the satanic 
mill, nor is it the humanitarian experiment against selfish 
exploitation. It is, rather, individual persons against the 
System. In so far as it is social at all, it is the Circus against 
Coketown. The schoolroom contrast of Sissy Jupe and Bitzer 
is a contrast between the education, practical but often in 
articulate, which is gained by living and doing, and the 
education, highly articulated, which is gained by systemi- 
zation and abstraction. It is a contrast of which Cobbett 
would have warmly approved; but in so far as we have all 
(and to some extent inevitably) been committed to a large 
measure of the latter, it is worth noting again what a large 
revaluation Dickens is asking us to make. The instinctive, 
unintellectual, unorganized life is the ground, here, of gen 
uine feeling, and of all good relationships. The Circus is one 
of the very few ways in which Dickens could have drama 
tized this, but it is less the circus that matters than the ex 
perience described by Sleary: 

that there ith a love in the world, not all Thelf- 
interetht after all, but thomething very different . . . 
it hath a way of ith own of calculating or not calculat 
ing, which thomehow or another ith at leatht ath hard 
to give a name to, ath the wayth of the dogth ith. 5 

It is a characteristic conclusion, in a vitally important tradi 
tion which based its values on such grounds. It is the major 
criticism of Industrialism as a whole way of life, and its 
grounds in experience have been firm. What is essential is 
to recognize that Dickens saw no social expression of it, or 
at least nothing that could be 'given a name to'. The ex 
perience is that of individual persons. Almost the whole or- 


ganization of society, as Dickens judges, is against it. The 

Circus can express it because it is not part of the industrial 
organization. The Circus is an end in itself, a pleasurable 
end, which is instinctive and (in certain respects) anarchic. 
It is significant that Dickens has thus to go outside the 
industrial situation to find any expression of his values. This 
going outside is similar to the Canada in which Mart/ Barton 
ends, or the legacy of Margaret Hale. But it is also more 
than these, in so far as it is not only an escape but a positive 
assertion of a certain kind of experience, the denial of which 
was the real basis (as Dickens saw it) of the hard times, 
It was inevitable, given the kind of criticism that Dickens 
was making, that his treatment of the industrial working 
people should have been so unsatisfactory. He recognizes 
them as objects of pity, and he recognizes the personal de 
votion in suffering of which they are capable. But the only 
conclusion he can expect them to draw is Stephen Black 

Aw a muddle! 6 

This is reasonable, but the hopelessness and passive suffer 
ing are set against the attempts of the working people to 
better their conditions. The trade unions are dismissed by a 
stock Victorian reaction, with the agitator Slackbridge. 
Stephen Blackpool, like Job Legh, is shown to advantage 
because he will not join them. The point can be gauged 
by a comparison with Cobbett, whose criticism of the Sys 
tem is in many ways very similar to that of Dickens, and 
rests on so many similar valuations, yet who was not simi 
larly deceived, even when the trade unions came as a nov 
elty to him. The point indicates a wider comment on Dick- 
ens's whole position. 

The scathing analysis of Coketown and all its works, and 
of the supporting political economy and aggressive utilitar 
ianism, is based on Carlyle. So are the hostile reactions to 
Parliament and to ordinary ideas of reform. Dickens takes 
up the hostility, and it serves as a comprehensive vision, to 
which he gives all his marvellous energy. But his identifica 
tion with Carlyle is really negative. There are no social al 
ternatives to Bounderby and Gradgrrnd: not the time- 

104 CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

serving aristocrat Harthouse; not the decayed gentlewoman 
Mrs Sparsit; nowhere, in fact, any active Hero. Many of 
Dickens's social attitudes cancel each other out, for he will 
use almost any reaction in order to undermine any normal 
representative position. Hard Times, in tone and structure, 
is the work of a man who has 'seen through* society, who 
has found them al out. The only reservation is for the pas 
sive and the suffering, for the meek who shall inherit the 
earth but not Coketown, not industrial society. This primi 
tive feeling, when joined by the aggressive conviction of 
having found everyone else out, is the retained position of 
an adolescent. The innocence shames the adult world, but 
also essentially rejects it. As a whole response, Hard Times 
is more a symptom of the confusion of industrial society 
than an understanding of it, but it is a symptom that is sig 
nificant and continuing. 

Sybil, or The Two Nations (1845) 

Sybil can be read now as the production of a future Con 
servative Prime Minister, and hence in the narrow sense as 
a political novel. The elements of political pleading are in 
deed evident in any reading of it. Their curiosity, their 
partisanship and their opportunism are matched only by 
their brilliance of address. The novel would be fascinating 
if it were only political. The stucco elegance of Disraeli's 
writing has a consonance with one kind of political argu 
ment. What is intolerable in his descriptions of persons and 
feelings becomes in his political flights a rather likeable 
panache. The descriptions of industrial squalor are very like 
those of Dickens on Coketown: brilliant romantic generali 
zationsthe view from the train, from the hustings, from 
the printed page yet often moving, like all far-seeing 
rhetoric. There are similar accounts of the conditions of the 
agricultural poor which need to be kept in mind against 
the misleading contrasts of North and South. Again, in a 
quite different manner, there is in Sybil the most spirited de 
scription of the iniquities of the tommy-shop, and of the 
practical consequences of the system of truck, to be found 
anywhere. Disraeli's anger the generalized anger of an out- 


sider making his waycarries lam often beyond his formal 
text. The hostile descriptions of London political and social 
life are again generalization, but they have, doubtless, the 
same rhetorical significance as those of the forays among 
the poor. Anyone who is prepared to give credit to Disraeli's 
unsupported authority on any matter of social fact has of 
course mistaken his man, as he would similarly mistake 
Dickens. But Disraeli, like Dickens, is a very fine general 
izing analyst of cant, and almost as fine a generalizing 
rhetorician of human suffering. Both functions, it must be 
emphasized, are reputable. 

In terms of ideas, Sybil is almost a collector's piece. There 
is this, for instance, from Coleridge: 

But if it have not furnished us with abler administra 
tion or a more illustrious senate, the Reform Act may 
have exercised on the country at large a beneficial in 
fluence? Has it? Has it elevated the tone of the public 
mind? Has it cultured the popular sensibilities to noble 
and ennobling ends? Has it proposed to the people of 
England a higher test of national respect and confi 
dence than the debasing qualification universally prev 
alent in this country since the fatal introduction of the 
system of Dutch finance? Who will pretend it? If a 
spirit of rapacious covetousness, desecrating all the hu 
manities of Me, has been the besetting sin of England 
for the last century and a half, since the passing of the 
Reform Act the altar of Mammon has blazed with 
triple worship. To acquire, to accumulate, to plunder 
each oilier by virtue of philosophic phrases, to propose 
a Utopia to consist only of WEALTH and TOIL, this 
has been the breathless business of enfranchised Eng 
land for the last twelve years, until we are startled from 
our voracious strife by the wail of intolerable serfage. 7 

It is true that this is political, a part of the grand assault on 
Whiggery. But the terms of the assault are familiar, as part 
of a much wider criticism. Or again this, which was to re 
appear in our own century with an air of original discovery: 

*. . . There is no community in England; there is ag- 


gregation, but aggregation under circumstances which 
make it rather a dissociating than a uniting principle. 
. It is a community of purpose that constitutes so 
ciety . . . without that, men may be drawn into con 
tiguity, but they still continue virtually isolated/ 
'And is that their condition in cities?' 
'It is their condition everywhere; but in cities that 
condition is aggravated. A density of population im 
plies a severer struggle for existence, and a consequent 
repulsion of elements brought into too close contact. 
In great cities men are brought together by the desire 
of gain. They are not in a state of cooperation, but of 
isolation, as to the making of fortunes; and for all 
the rest they are careless of neighbours. Christianity 
teaches us to love our neighbour as ourself ; modern 
society acknowledges no neighbour/ 8 

These views of the Chartist Stephen Morley were the com 
mon element in a number of varying political positions. 
They have remained the terms of a basic criticism of In 

The two nations, of rich and poor, have of course become 
famous. The basis of the attempt to make one nation of them 
is the restoration to leadership of an enlightened aristoc 
racy. For, 

'There is a change in them, as in all other tihings/ 
. . . said Egremont. 

Tf there be a change/ said Sybil, It is because in 
some degree the people have learnt their strength/ 

AhI dismiss from your mind those fallacious fancies/ 
said Egremont. "The people are not strong; the peo 
ple never can be strong. Their attempts at self -vindica 
tion will end only in their suffering and confusion/ 9 

It is, of course, the familiar injunction, in Cobbett's words, 
to *be quief, and the familiar assumption of the business of 
regeneration by others in this case 'the enlightened aristoc 
racy*. Disraeli shared the common prejudices about the 
popular movement: his account of the initiation of Dandy 
Mick into a Trade Union 


*. . . you will execute with zeal and alacrity ... ev 
ery task and injunction that the majority of your breth 
ren . . . shall impose upon you, in furtherance of our 
common welfare, of which they are the sole judges: 
such as the chastisement of Nobs, the assassination of 
oppressive and tyrannical masters, or the demolition of 
aE mills, works and shops that shall be deemed by us 
incorrigible/ 10 

is characteristically cloak-and-dagger. This must be ac 
knowledged alongside the shrewder assessment; 

The people she found was not that pure embodiment 
of unity of feeling, of interest, and of purpose which 
she had pictured in her abstractions. The people had 
enemies among the people: their own passions; which 
made them often sympathize, often combine, with the 
privileged. 11 

This shrewdness might well have been also applied to some 
of Disraeli's other abstractions, but perhaps that was left 
for later, in the progress of his political career. 

The passages quoted are near the climax of that uniting 
of Egremont, 'the enlightened aristocrat', and Sybil, 'the 
daughter of the People', which, in the novel, is the symbolic 
creation of the One Nation. This, again, is the way the heart 
goes, and it is the novel's most interesting illustration. For 
Sybil, of course, is only theoretically 'the daughter of the 
People'. The actual process of the book is the discovery that 
she is a dispossessed aristocrat, and the marriage bells ring, 
not over the achievement of One Nation, but over the unit 
ing of the properties of Marney and Mowbray, one agricul 
tural, the other industrial: a marriage symbolical, indeed, 
of the political development which was the actual issue. 
The restored heiress stands, in the general picture, with 
Margaret Thornton's legacy, with Canada, and with the 
Horse-Riding. But it is significant of Disraeli's shrewdness 
that, through the device, he embodied what was to become 
an actual political event. 


Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet (1850) 

In part, Alton Locke is in the orthodox sense an 'expo 
sure*: an informed, angry and sustained account of sweated 
labour in the 'Cheap and Nasty' clothing trade. Much of it 
can still be read in these terms, with attention and sym 
pathy. It is fair to note, however, that in respect of this 
theme the Preface is more effective than the novel, and for 
the unexpected reason that it is more specific. 

The wider intention of the book is rather different. It is 
really a story of conversion: of the making of a Chartist in 
the usual sense, and of his remaking in Kingsley's sense. 
This is the basic movement in a book which is extremely 
discursive in mood. The earlier chapters are perhaps the 
most effective: the caricature of the Baptist home; the in 
dignant realism of the apprenticeship in the sweating- 
rooms; the generalized description of the longing from the 
'prison-house of brick and iron' for the beauty apprehended 
as knowledge and poetry. The beginnings of Alton Locke 
in political activity are also, in general outline, convincing. 
With them, however, begins also the major emphasis on 
argument, on prolonged discussion of events, which is evi 
dently Kingsley's motive and energy. Often this discussion 
is interesting, particularly as we recognize the familiar 
popularization of Carlyle and of the ideas which Carlyle 
concentrated. This merges, from the time of the conversion 
(the curious chapter Dreamland), into the Christian So 
cialist arguments with which Kingsley's name is commonly 
identified. It is doubtful whether much attention of a dif 
ferent kind, attention, that is, other than to the genealogy 
of ideas, can be given to all these parts of the book. A very 
large part of it is like reading old newspapers, or at least old 
pamphlets. The issues are tfiere, but the terms are arbitrary 
and the connexions mechanical. The book is not an 'auto 
biography* but a tract. 

We need note here only the conclusion, alike of the story 
and of the argument. Once again, the motive to Chartism, 
to a working-class political movement, has been sympa 
thetically set down (it was on this score that Kingsley and 


others were thought of as 'advanced' or 'dangerous' tihink- 
ers). But again the effort is seen finally as a delusion: In 
effect- we understand and sympathize with your sufferings 
which drove you to this, but what you are doing is terribly 


*Ay,^ she went on, her figure dilating, and her eyes 
flashing, like an inspired prophetess, 'that is in the 
Bible! What would you more than that? That is your 
charter; the only ground of all charters. You, like all 
mankind, have had dim inspirations, confused yearn 
ings after your future destiny, and, like all the world 
from the beginning, you have tried to realise, by self- 
willed methods of your own, what you can only do by 
God s inspiration, God's method. ... Oh! look back, 
look back, at the history of English Radicalism for the 
last half -century, and judge by your own deeds, your 
own words; were you fit for those privileges which you 
so frantically demanded? Do not answer me, that those 
who had them were equally unfit; but thank God, 
if the case be indeed so, that your incapacity was not 
added to theirs, to make confusion worse confounded. 
Learn a new lesson. Believe at last that you are in 
Christ, and become new creatures. With those mis- 
erable, awful farce tragedies of April and June, let old 
things pass away, and all things become new. Believe 
that your kingdom is not of this world, but of One 
whose servants must not fight.' 12 

It is not surprising after this that the destiny of the hero is 
once againemigration. Alton Locke dies as he reaches 
America, but Ms fellow-Chartist, Crossthwaite, will come 

back after seven years. 

The regeneration of society, according to Kingsley's 
Cambridge preface to the book, will meanwhile proceed 
under the leadership of a truly enlightened aristocracy. It 
will be a movement towards democracy, but not to that 
"tyranny of numbers' of which the dangers have been seen 
in the United States. For: 

As long, I believe, as the Throne, the House of Lords, 
and the Press, are what, thank God, they are, so long 


will each enlargement of the suffrage be a fresh source 
not of danger, but of safety; for it will bind the masses 
to the established order of things by that loyalty 
which springs from content; from the sense of being 
appreciated, trusted, dealt with not as children, but as 
men. ls 

Felix Holt (1866) 

Felix Holt was not published till 1866, but we can set 
beside it a passage from a letter of George Eliot's, written 
to J. Sibree in 1848, just after the French Revolution of 
that year: 

You and Carlyle . . . are the only two people who feel 
just as 1 would have themwho can glory in what is 
actually great and beautiful without putting forth any 
cold reservations and incredulities to save their credit 
for wisdom. 1 am all the more delighted with your en 
thusiasm because I didn't expect it. I feared that you 
lacked revolutionary ardour. But no you are just as 
sanS'Culottish and rash as I would have you. ... I 
thought we had fallen on such evil days that we were 
to see no really great movementthat ours was what 
St Simon calls a purely critical epoch, not at all an 
organic one; but I begin to be glad of my date. I would 
consent, however, to have a year dipt off my life for 
the sake of witnessing such a scene as that of the men 
of the barricades bowing to the image of Christ, 'who 
first taught fraternity to men'. One trembles to look 
into every fresh newspaper lest there should be some 
thing to mar the picture. ... I should have no hope 
of good from any imitative movement at home. Our 
working classes are eminently inferior to the mass of 
the French people. In France the mind of the people 
is highly electrified; they are full of ideas on social sub 
jects; they really desire social reform not merely an 
acting out of Sancho Panza's favourite proverb, *Yes- 
terday for you, today for me*. The revolutionary ani 
mus extended over the whole nation, and embraced 


the rural populationnot merely, as with us, the arti 
sans of the towns. Here there is so much larger a 
proportion of selfish radicalism and unsatisfied brute 
sensuality (in the agricultural and mining districts es 
pecially) than of perception or desire of justice, that a 
revolutionary movement would be simply destructive, 
not constructive. Besides, it would be put down. . . . 
And there is nothing In our Constitution to obstruct 
the slow progress of political reform. This is all we are 
fit for at present. The social reform which may pre 
pare us for great changes is more and more the object 
of effort both in Parliament and out of it. But we Eng 
lish are slow crawlers. 14 

The distinctions in this are doubtful, but the tone indicates 
an intelligence of a different order from the other novelists 
discussed. We are interested in Mrs Gaskell or Kingsley or 
Disraeli because of what they testified; with George Eliot 
there is another interest, because of the quality of the 

This quality is evident in Felix Holt, which as a novel has 
a quite different status from those previously discussed. It 
has also, however, much in common with them. The formal 
plot turns on the familiar complications of inheritance in 
property, and Esther, with her inherited breeding showing 
itself in poor circumstances, has something in common with 
Sybil. As with Sybil, her title to a great estate is proved, but 
there the comparison with Disraeli ends. Harold Transome 
is, like Egremont, a second son; like him, he turns to the 
reforming side in politics. But George Eliot was incapable 
of resting on the image of an Egremont, the figurehead of 
the enlightened gentleman. Harold Transome is a coarser 
reality, and it is impossible that Esther should marry him. 
She renounces her claim and marries Felix Holt. It is as if 
Sybil had renounced the Mowbray estates and married 
Stephen Morley. I do not make any claim for the superior 
reality of George Eliot's proceedings. The thing is as con 
trived, in the service of a particular image of the desirable, 
as Disraeli's very different d6nouement. George Eliot works 


with, a rather finer net, but it is not in such elements of the 
novel that her real superiority is apparent. 

Nor again is there much superiority in her creation of 
Felix Holt himself. He is shown as a working-man radical, 
determined to stick to his own class, and to appeal solely 
to the energies of 'moral force*. He believes in sobriety and 
education, argues for social rather than merely political 
reform, and wants to be 

a demagogue of a new sort; an honest one, if possible, 
who will tell the people they are blind and f ooKsh, and 
neither flatter them nor fatten on them. 15 

It is not easy, at any time, to say whether a character *con- 
vinces'. We are al apt, in such questions, to impose our 
own conceptions both of the probable and the desirable. 
But one can usually see, critically, when a character comes 
to existence in a number of aspects, forming something like 
the image of a life; and, alternatively, when a character is 
fixed at a different and simpler stage: in the case of Felix 
Holt, at a physical appearance and a set of opinions. Mrs 
Gaskell could conceive the early John Barton in much 
these terms, but, because other substance was lacking, she 
had virtually to dismiss him as a person when the course 
of action found necessary on other grounds went beyond 
the limits of her sympathy. Felix Holt, like Alton Locke, 
is conceived as a more probable hero: that is to say, as one 
whose general attitude is wholly sympathetic to the author, 
and who is detached from him only by a relative immatu 
rity. Like Alton Locke, Felix Holt becomes involved in a 
riot; like him, he is mistaken for a ringleader; like Mm, he 
is sentenced to imprisonment. This recurring pattern is not 
copying, in the vulgar sense. It is rather the common work 
ing of an identical fear, which was present also in Mrs 
GaskelTs revision of John Barton. It is at root the fear of 
a sympathetic, reformist-minded member of the middle 
classes at being drawn into any kind of mob violence. John 
Barton is involved in earnest, and his creator's sympathies 
are at once withdrawn, to the obvious detriment of the 
work as a whole. Sympathy is transferred to Jem Wilson, 
mistakenly accused, and to Margaret's efforts on his behalf, 


which have a parallel in Esther's impulse to speak at the 
trial of Felix Holt. But the basic pattern is a dramatization 
of the fear of being involved in violence: a dramatization 
made possible by the saving clause of innocence and mis 
taken motive, and so capable of redemption. What is really 
interesting is that the conclusion of this kind of dramatiza 
tion is then taken as proof of the rightness of the author's 
original reservations. The people are indeed dangerous, in 
their constant tendency to blind disorder. Anyone sympa 
thizing with them is likely to become involved. Therefore 
(a most ratifying word) it can be sincerely held that the 
popular movements actually under way are foolish and in 
adequate, and that the only wise course is dissociation from 

Of course, that there is inadequacy in any such move 
ment is obvious, but the discriminations one would expect 
from a great novelist are certainly not drawn In Felix Holt. 
Once again Cobbett is a touchstone, and his conduct at his 
own trial after the labourers' revolts of 1830 is a ner dem 
onstration of real maturity than the fictional compromises 
here examined, Cobbett, like nearly all men who have 
worked with their hands, hated any kind of violent destruc 
tion of useful things. But he tad the experience and the 
strength to enquire further into violence. He believed, more 
over, what George Eliot so obviously could not believe, that 
the common people were something other than a mob, and 
had instincts and habits something above drunkenness, gul 
libility and ignorance. He would not have thought Felix 
Holt an "honest demagogue* for telling the people that they 
were *blind and foolish*. He would have thought him rather 
a very convenient ally of the opponents of reform. George 
EMofs view of the common people is uncomfortably close 
to that of Carlyle in Shooting Niagara: *blockheadism, gul 
libility, bribeability, amenability to beer and balderdash*. 
This was the common first assumption, and was the basis 
for the distinction (alike in her 1848 comment and in Fein 
Holt) between 'political* and 'social' reform. The former is 
only 'machinery*; the latter is seen as substance. The dis 
tinction is useful, but consider this very typical speech by 
Felix Holt; 

114 COLTOBE AKD SOCIETY 1780-1950 

The way to get rid of folly is to get rid of vain ex 
pectations, and of thoughts that don't agree with the 
nature of things. The men who have had true thoughts 
about water, and what it will do when it is turned into 
steam and under all sorts of circumstances, have made 
themselves a great power in the world: they are turn 
ing the wheels of engines that will help to change most 
things. But no engines would have done, if there had 
been false notions about the way water would act. 
Now, all the schemes about voting, and districts, and 
annual Parliaments, and the rest, are engines, and the 
water or steam the force that is to work them must 
come out of human nature out of men's passions, feel 
ings, and desires. Whether the engines will do good 
work or bad depends on these feelings. 16 

But the 'engines' mentioned are, after all, particular engines, 
proposed to do different work from the engines previously 
employed. It is really mechanical to class all the engines 
together and to diminish their importance, when in fact 
their purposes differ. The new proposals are an embodi 
ment of 'passions, feelings, and desires': alternative pro 
posals, supported by alternative feelings, so that a choice 
can properly be made. The real criticism, one suspects, is 
of 'thoughts that don't agree with the nature of things', and 
this 'nature of things' can either be a supposedly permanent 
Tinman nature', or else, as probably, the supposedly im 
mutable laws of society'. Among these laws', as Felix 
Holt's argument continues, is the supposition that among 
every hundred men there will be thirty with 'some sober 
ness, some sense to choose', and seventy, either drunk or 
ignorant or mean or stupid'. With such an assumption it is 
easy enough to 'prove' that a voting reform would be use 
less. George Eliot's advice, essentiaEy, is that the working 
men should first make themselves 'sober and educated', un 
der the leadership of men like Felix Holt, and then reform 
will do some good. But the distinction between 'political' 
and 'social' reform is seen at this point at its most arbitrary. 
The abuses of an unref ormed Parliament are even dragged 
in as an argument against parliamentary reform it will 


only be more of the same sort of thing. Hie winning through 
political reform of the means of education, of the leisure 
necessary to take such opportunity, of the conditions of 
work and accommodation which will diminish poverty and 
drunkenness: all these and similar aims, which were the 
purposes for which the 'engines' were proposed, are left 
out of the argument. Without them, the sober responsible 
educated working man must, presumably, spring fully 
armed from his own ('drunken, ignorant, mean and stupid') 

It has passed too long for a kind of maturity and deptii 
in experience to argue that politics and political attach 
ments are only possible to superficial minds; that any ap 
preciation of the complexity of human nature necessarily 
involves a wise depreciation of these noisy instruments. The 
tone 'cold reservations and incredulities to save their 
credit for wisdom' is often heard in Felix Holt: 

Crying abuses-floated paupers', ^bloated pluralists*, 
and other corruptions hindering men from being wise 
and happyhad to be fought against and slain. Suet 
a time is a time of hope. Afterwards, when the corpses 
of those monsters have been held up to the public 
wonder and abhorrence, and yet wisdom and happi 
ness do not follow, but rather a more abundant breed 
ing of the foolish and unhappy, comes a time of 
doubt and despondency. . . . Some dwelt on the abo 
lition of all abuses, and on millennial blessedness gen 
erally; others, whose imaginations were less suffused 
with exhalations of the dawn, insisted chiely on the 
ballot-box. 17 

The wise shake of the head draws a complacent answering 
smile. But what I myself find in such a passage as this, in 
the style ('suffused with exhalations of the dawn*; 'millen 
nial blessedness generally') as in the feeling (*a more abun 
dant breeding of the foolish and unhappy*) , is not the deep 
and extensive working of a generous mind, but rather the 
petty cynicism of a mind that has lost, albeit only tem 
porarily, its capacity for human respect. 

Felix Holt's opinions are George Eliot's opinions purged 


of just this element, which is a kind of intellectual fatigue. 

It is the mood of the 'sixties of Shooting Niagara and Cul 
ture and Anarchy holding an incompetent post-mortem on 

the earlier phases of Radicalism. Felix Holt himself is not 
so much a character as an impersonation: a rdle in which 
he again appears in the Address to Working Men, by Felix 
Holt, which George Eliot was persuaded to write by her 
publisher. Here the dangers of active democracy are more 
clearly put: 

The too absolute predominance of a class whose wants 

have been of a common sort, who are chiefly straggling 
to get better and more food, clothing, shelter, and 
bodily recreation, may lead to hasty measures for the 
sake of having things more fairly shared which, even 
if they did not fail . . . would at last debase the life 
of the nation, 18 

Reform must proceed 

not by any attempt to do away directly with the ac 
tually existing class distinctions and advantages . . . 

but by the turning of Class Interests into Class Func 
tions. ... If the claims of the unendowed multitude 

of working men hold within them principles which 
must shape the future, it is not less true that the en 
dowed classes, in their inheritance from the past, hold 
the precious material without which no worthy, noble 
future can be moulded. 19 

George Eliot, in this kind of thinking, is very far from her 
best. Her position, behind the facade of Felix Holt, is that 
of a Carlyle without the energy, of an Arnold without the 
quick practical sense, of an anxiously balancing Mill with 
out the intellectual persistence. Yet it is clear that, inade 
quate as her attempt at a position may be, it proceeds, 
though not fruitfully, from that sense of society as a com 
plicated inheritance which is at the root of her finest work. 
In Felix Holt, this sense is magnificently realized at the level 
of one set of personal relationships that of Mrs Transome, 
the lawyer Jermyn and their son Harold Transome. In 
Middlemarch, with almost equal intensity, this realization 


is extended to a whole representative section of provincial 
society. Always, at her best, she is unrivalled in English fic 
tion in her creation and working of the complication and 
consequence inherent in all relationships. From such a posi 
tion in experience she naturally sees society at a deeper level 
than its political abstractions indicate, and she sees her own 
society, in her own choice of word, as 'vicious'. Her favour 
ite metaphor for society is a network: a 'tangled skein'; a 
'tangled web'; 'the long-growing evils of a great nation are 
a tangled business'. This, again, is just; it is the ground of 
her finest achievements. But the metaphor, while having a 
positive usefulness in its indication of complexity, has also a 
negative effect. For it tends to represent social and in 
deed directly personalrelationships as passive: acted upon 
rather than acting. 'One fears', she remarked, 'to pull the 
wrong thread, in the tangled scheme of things.' The cau 
tion is reasonable, but the total effect of the image false. 
For in fact every element in the complicated system is ac 
tive: the relationships are changing, constantly, and any ac 
tioneven abstention; certainly the impersonation of Felix 
Holt affects, even if only slightly, the tensions, the pres 
sures, the very nature of the complication. It is a mark, not 
of her deep perception, but of the point at which this fails, 
that her attitude to society is finally so negative: a negative- 
ness of detail which the width of a phrase like 'deep social 
reform' cannot disguise. The most important thing about 
George Eliot is her superb control of particular complexi 
ties, but this must not be stated in terms of an interest in 
'personal' relationships as opposed to 'social' relationships. 
She did not believe, as others have tried to do, that these 
categories are really separate: 'there is no private life which 
has not been determined by a wider public life', as she re 
marks near the beginning of Felix Holt. Yet it is a fact that 
when she touches, as she chooses to touch, the lives and the 
problems of working people, her personal observation and 
conclusion surrender, virtually without a fight, to the gen 
eral structure of f eeling about these matters which was the 
common property of her generation, and which she was at 
once too hesitant to transcend, and too intelligent to raise 
into any lively embodiment. She fails in the extension which 


she knows to be necessary, because indeed there seems 'no 
right thread to pull'. Almost any kind of social action is 

ruled out, and the most that can be hoped for, with a hero 
like Felix Holt, is that he will in the widest sense keep his 
hands reasonably clean. It is indeed the mark of a deadlock 
in society when so fine an intelligence and so quick a sym 
pathy can conceive no more than this. For patience and 
caution, without detailed intention, are very easily con 
verted into acquiescence, and there is no right to acquiesce 
if society is known to be Vicious'. 

These novels, when read together, seem to illustrate 
clearly enough not only the common criticism of industrial 
ism, which the tradition was establishing, but also the gen 
eral structure of feeling which was equally determining. 
Recognition of evil was balanced by fear of becoming in 
volved. Sympathy was transformed, not into action, but 
into withdrawal. We can all observe the extent to which this 
structure of feeling has persisted, into both the literature 
and the social thinking of our own time. 



IN his Discourse VII, On the Scope and Nature of Univer 
sity Education (1852), Newman wrote: 

It were well if the English, like the Greek language, 
possessed some definite word to express, simply and 
generally, intellectual proficiency or perfection, such as 
liealth*, as used with reference to the animal frame, 
and Virtue* with reference to our moral nature. I am 
not able to find such a term;talent, ability, genius, 
belong distinctly to the raw material, which is the 
subject-matter, not to that excellence which is the re 
sult, of exercise and training. When we turn, indeed, 
to the particular kinds of intellectual perfection, words 
are forthcoming for our purpose, as, for instance, 
judgement, taste, and skill; yet even these belong, for 
the most part, to powers or habits bearing upon prac 
tice or upon art, and not to any perfect condition of 
the intellect, considered in itself. Wisdom, again, which 
is a more comprehensive word than any other, cer 
tainly has a direct relation to conduct and to human 
Me. Knowledge, indeed, and Science express purely in 
tellectual ideas, but still not a state or habit of the in 
tellect; for knowledge, in its ordinary sense, is but one 
of its circumstances, denoting a possession or influ 
ence; and science has been appropriated to the subject- 
matter of the intellect, instead of belonging at present, 
as it ought to do, to the intellect itself. The conse 
quence is that, on an occasion like this, many words 
are necessary, in order, first, to bring out and convey 
what is surely no difficult idea in itself that of the cul 
tivation of the intellect as an end; next, in order to 
recommend what surely is no unreasonable object; and 
lastly, to describe and realize to the mind the particu 
lar perfection in which that object consists. 1 

120 CULTUBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

The most surprising fact about this paragraph is that New 
man does not meet the want of 'some definite word* with 
the word 'culture'. The staple of his argument is clearly con 
nected with the ideas of 'cultivated' and 'cultivation' as de 
fined by Coleridge. He is moreover, in his concluding 
phrases, virtually announcing the task which Arnold was 
about to undertake in Culture and Anarchy. Elsewhere, he 
in fact made the essential connexion with 'culture': 

And so, as regards intellectual culture, I am far from 
denying utility in this large sense as the end of educa 
tion, when I lay it down, that the culture of the in 
tellect is a good in itself and its own end. ... As the 
body may be sacrificed to some manual or other toil 
... so may the intellect be devoted to some specific 
profession; and I do not call this the culture of the in 
tellect. Again, as some member or organ of the body 
may be inordinately used and developed, so may 
memory or imagination or the reasoning faculty; and 
this again is not intellectual culture. On the other hand, 
as the body may be tended, cherished, and exercised 
with a simple view to its general health, so may the 
inteEect also be generally exercised in order to its per 
fect state; and this is its cultivation. 2 

The proposition is in terms of the 'general health' of the 
mind, as in Coleridge's distinction between the Tiectic of 
disease* of one kind of civilization, and the *bloom of health' 
of a civilization 'grounded in cultivation'. Health is New 
man's standard for the body; his standard for the mind is 

There is a physical beauty and a moral: there is a 
beauty of person, there is a beauty of our moral being, 
which is natural virtue; and in like manner there is a 
beauty, there is a perfection, of the intellect. There is 
an ideal perfection in these various subject-matters, to 
wards which individual instances are seen to rise, and 
which are the standards for all instances whatever. 8 

This, again, is within the tradition, from Burke to Arnold. 
The work of perfection, which Arnold was to name as Cul- 


tare, received increasing emphasis in opposition to the pow 
erful Utilitarian tendency which conceived education as the 
training of men to carry out particular tasks in a particular 

kind of civilization. Coleridge, Newman and others set a 

different ideal: 

the harmonious development of those qualities and 
faculties that characterize our humanity. 4 

This part of the preparation for Matthew Arnold's work 
is now clear. But, by the time he came to write, there was 
also another consideration: the general reaction to the social 
effects of full industrialism, and in particular to the agita 
tion of the industrial working class. One stock reaction to 
this agitation is well known in Macaulay's phrase 'we must 
educate our masters'. Macaulay, characteristically, argued 
that the 'ignorance* of the 'common people* was a danger to 
property, and that therefore their education was necessary. 
Carlyle, on the other hand, had rejected any argument for 
education based on grounds of social expediency: 'as if . . . 
the first function (of) a government were not . . .to impart 
the gift of thinking'. 5 Kingsley, in his Cambridge Preface 
to Alton Locke, recommended the new Working Men's 

Without insulting them by patronage, without inter 
fering with their religious opinions, without tampering 
with their independence in any wise, but smply on 
the ground of a common humanity, they (i.e. mem 
bers of the University of Cambridge) have been help 
ing to educate these men, belonging for the most part, 
I presume, to the very class which this book sets forth 
as most unhappy and most dangerous the men con 
scious of unsatisfied and unemployed intellect And 
they have their reward in a practical and patent form. 
Out of these men a volunteer corps is ogauized, offi 
cered partly by themselves, partly by gentlemen of the 
University: a nucleus of discipline, loyalty, and civilisa 
tion for the whole population of Cambridge. 6 

Kingsley's last sentence, his 'practical and patent reward', is 
something of a revision of his earlier reason: 'simply on the 


ground of a common humanity'. But however phrased, and 
however now interpreted, the response itself is evident. We 
can see it very clearly in an extract from a speech by F. D. 
Maurice to the Manchester, Ancoats and Salford Working 
Men's College, in 1859: 

Now while we were thinking about these things, and 
thinking earnestly about them, there came that awful 
year 1848, which I shall always look upon as one of 
the great epochs of history. . . . I do say that when I 
think how it has affected the mind and the heart of the 
people of England; yes, of all classes of Englishmen. 
. , . I hear one intelligent man and another confessing; 
'Ten years ago we thought differently. But all of us 
have acquired since that time, a new sense of our re 
lation to the working-class.' ... It did cause us to 
fear, I own; but it was not fear for our property and 
position; it was the fear that we were not discharging 
the responsibilities, greater than those which rank or 
property imposes, that our education laid upon us. 
. . . We believed and felt that unless the classes in this 
country which had received any degree of knowledge 
more than their fellows were willing to share it with 
their fellows, to regard it as precious because it bound 
them to their fellows, England would fall first under 
an anarchy, and then under a despotism. . . J 

This was the reaction, and Maurice added a note on 

What we wanted, if possible, was to make our teach 
ing a bond of intercourse with the men whom we 
taught. How that could be, we might never have found 
out. But the working men themselves had found it out. 
We heard in 1853 that the people of Sheffield had 
founded a People's College. The news seemed to us to 
mark a new era in education. We had belonged to Col 
leges. They had not merely given us a certain amount 
of indoctrination in certain subjects; they had not 
merely prepared us for our particular professions; they 
had borne witness of a culture which is the highest of 
all culture. , . . 8 


TMs aspect of the preparation of Arnold's ground could 
hardly be more evident: 'culture', quite explicitly, is offered 
as the alternative to 'anarchy'. The need for popular educa 
tion might be met in a number of ways; the Utilitarians, in 
particular, had been early in the field. But Maurice's em 
phasis is that of Coleridge and Newman. The general op 
position to Utilitarianism, and the alarmed reaction to in 
creasing working-class power, here came together in a most 
significant way. 

One other aspect of Arnold's inheritance needs to be 
briefly examined: the important attitudes which he had 
learned from his father. Thomas Arnold's liberalism, in the 
difficult 18305, was best expressed in his Englishman's 
Register (1831), and in the letters to the Sheffield Courant 
at the beginning and to the Hertford Reformer at the end 
of the decade. These are all worth reading, but only two or 
three points need be noted here. There is, for instance, this 
characteristic emphasis: 

When I cal the great evil of England the unhappy 
situation in which the poor and the rich stand towards 
each other, I wish to show that the evil is in our 
feelings quite as much or more than in our outward 
condition. 9 

The period is one of revolution: 

We have been living, as it were, the Me of three hun 
dred years in thirty. All things have made a prodigious 
start together or rather all that could have done so, 
and those that could not have, therefore, been left at a 
long distance behind. 10 

One proper response is Education: 

Education, in the common sense of the word, is re 
quired by a people before poverty has made havoc 
among them; at that critical moment when civilization 
makes its first burst, and is accompanied by an im 
mense commercial activity. 11 

The other, deeper response is to end the habit of laissez- 


. . . one of the falsest maxims which ever pandered 
to human selfishness under the name of political wis 
dom. . . . We stand by and let this most unequal race 
take its own course, forgetting that the very name of 
society implies that it shall not be a mere race, but that 
its object is to provide for the common good of all. 12 

This is the new humane liberalism, which can join itself 
with attitudes drawn from quite other ways of thinking, 
as here: 

The unwieldy and utterly unorganized mass of our 
population requires to be thoroughly organized. Where 
is the part of our body into which minute blood 
vessels and nerves of the most acute sensibility are not 
insinuated, so that every part there is truly alive? 18 

This is the 'organic* stress, as in Coleridge, and it is not 
surprising that such a liberal as a father had such a liberal 
as a son. 

We can now turn to Matthew Arnold's important defini 
tion of Culture, which at last gives the tradition a single 
watchword and a name. His purpose in Culture and An 
archy, he writes, is to 

recommend culture as the great help out of our pres 
ent difficulties; culture being a pursuit of our total per 
fection by means of getting to know, on all the matters 
which most concern us, the best which has been 
thought and said in the world; and, through this 
knowledge, turning a stream of fresh and free thought 
upon our stock notions and habits, which we now fol 
low staunchly but mechanically, vainly imagining that 
there is a virtue in following them staunchly which 
makes up for the mischief of following them me 
chanically. 14 

The quotation often stops halfway, as if perfection were to 
be striven for merely by 'getting to know'. As is clear, Ar 
nold intends this only as a first stage, to be followed by the 

re-examination of 'stock notions and habits'. And further: 


Culture, which is the study of perfection, leads us ... 
to conceive of true human perfection as a harmonious 
perfection, developing all sides of our humanity; and 
as a general perfection, developing all parts of our 
society. 15 

Culture, then, is both study and pursuit. It is not merely the 
development of literary culture', but of 'all sides of our hu 
manity'. Nor is it an activity concerning individuals alone, 
or some part or section of society; it is, and must be, es 
sentially general. 

Culture and Anarchy is, first, a description of this atti 
tude; second, a re-examination of certain dominant nine 
teenth-century "notions and habits'; and third, a considera 
tion of the bearings of this position on the progress of 
society. In all three elements, Arnold draws heavily on the 
thinkers who had immediately preceded him: in particular 
on Coleridge, Burke, Newman and Carlyle, Yet the work 
is original in tone and in certain of its examples and em 
phases. It was written, moreover, in a rather different so 
cial situation. Its impact was immediate, and it has re 
mained more influential than any other single work in this 

Arnold begins with a point familiar to us from Carlyle 
and Coleridge: 

In our modern world . . . the whole civilization is, to 
a much greater degree than the civilization of Greece 
and Rome, mechanical and external, and tends con 
stantly to become more so. 16 

This is the social fact, and the corresponding social attitudes 
are described, in the usual phrase, as an over-valuation 
of 'machinery*: means valued as ends. The first piece of 
'machinery*, or stock notion, is Wealth: 

Nine Englishmen out of ten at the present day believe 
that our greatness and welfare are proved by our be 
ing so very rich. 17 

The people who believe this are the 'Philistines'. And: 


Culture says: 'Consider these people then, their way 
of life, their habits, their manners, the very tones of 
their voice; look at them attentively; observe the lit 
erature they read, the things which give them pleas 
ure, the words which come forth out of their mouths, 
the thoughts which make the furniture of their minds; 
would any amount of wealth be worth having with 
the condition that one was to become just like these 
people by having it?' 18 

This is a paragraph which one kind of reader will appre 
ciatively underline. He will enjoy the spectacle of 'these 
people*, with their British Banner and their tea-meetings, 
as he enjoyed Josiah Bounderby of Coketown. I am sorry 
to dissent, but there is something in the tone which reminds 
us that Arnold not only popularized the tradition, but 
brought down on it the continuing charges of priggishness 
and spiritual pride. The damage done by the stock notion 
of Wealth is its narrowing of human ideals to a single end, 
which is really only a means. The question, certainly, is 
what quality of life the wealth is used to sustain. Arnold 
asked this question, but included in his answer a stock re 
action to 'the vulgar' which is surely vulgar in itself. The 
description of spiritual perfection, in Newman, comes 
through with a remarkable purity that commands respect 
even where assent is difficult. In Arnold, on the other hand, 
the spiritual ideal is too often flanked by a kind of witty 
and malicious observation better suited to minor fiction. 
The most bitter opponent of Newman could never have 
called him a prig, and Burke, at the height of his prejudices, 
retains an always admirable strength. Arnold has neither 
this inviolability nor this power. 

This may be seen again in his attack on the 'stock no 
tion' of Progress, in Friendship's Garland: 

Your middle-class man thinks it is the highest pitch of 
development and civilization when his letters are car 
ried twelve times a day from Islington to Camberwell, 
and from Camberwell to Islington, and if railway trains 
run to-and-fro between them every quarter of an hour. 
He thinks it is nothing that the trains only carry him 


from an illiberal, dismal life at Camberwell to an 
illiberal, dismal life at Islington; and tibte letters only 

tell him that such is the life there. 19 

The bearing of the question is again fruitful, but Arnold's 
demonstration of the point depends, first, on prior assent to 
the judgement 'illiberal' and 'dismal', and, second, on the 
inclusion of 'Islington' and 'Camberwell*, which are really 
false particulars, very similar in function to Mr Eliot's 
'Camden Town and Golders Green'. One might say that the 
light penetrates, but that it is hardly accompanied by 
sweetness. The literary method, rather, is that of a soured 
romanticism, of which we have had sufficient examples in 
the stock notions about 'Subtopia' in our own day. 

The fact is that in the developed social structure of a fully 
industrialized society few reactions of any kind could escape 
an admixture of largely self-regarding feelings of class. The 
worst harm done by the 'stock notion' of class, a notion re 
ceiving constant assent from the material structure of so 
ciety, was that it offered category feelings about human 
behaviour, based on a massing and simplifying of actual 
individuals, as an easy substitute for the difficulties of per 
sonal and immediate judgement Arnold had many useful 
things to say about class, but it is one of the 'stock notions 
and habits' whose influence he did not wholly escape. 

What Arnold had to say about Industry and Production, 
as 'stock notions', seems to me admirable. It is of a piece 
with the ideas of Carlyle, Ruskin, and, in our own day, 
Tawney. But his best treatment of a stock notion is his dis 
cussion of Freedom. It is very much what Burke had said 
in the early part of the Reflections, but it is admirably en 
riched and extended by Arnold's contact with the high pe 
riod of Liberalism. 

Freedom . . . is a very good horse to ride, but to ride 
somewhere. You . . . think that you have only to get 
on the back of your horse Freedom . . . and to ride 
away as hard as you can, to be sure of coming to the 
right destination. If your newspapers can say what 
they like, you think you are sure of being well- 
informed. 20 


The text is still apt, and unanswerable. Arnold was an ex 
cellent analyst of the deficiencies of the gospel of 'doing 
as one likes': partly because of his reliance on the traditional 
idea of man's business as the 'pursuit of perfection'; and 
partly, in social terms, because he lived through a period 
in which the freedom of one group of people to do as they 
liked was being challenged by that much larger group who 
were being *done by as others liked'. He saw the conse 
quences, in both spheres: the danger of spiritual anarchy 
when individual assertion was the only standard; the dan 
ger of social anarchy as the rising class exerted its power. 
Yet the most influential part of Arnold's work is not his 
treatment of the 'stock notions', but his effort to give his 
revaluation a practical bearing in society. It is often said 
(and his tone, at times, lends unfortunate support) that 
Arnold recommends a merely selfish personal cultivation: 
that although he professes concern about the state of so 
ciety, the improvement of this state must wait on the proc 
ess of his internal perfection: 

The culture we recommend is, above all, an inward 
operation. . . . Culture . . . places human perfection 
in an internal condition. 21 

But this, if Arnold has been read, can be only a deliberate 
misunderstanding. For example: 

Perfection, as culture conceives it, is not possible while 
the individual remains isolated. The individual is re 
quired, under pain of being stunted and enfeebled in 
his own development if he disobeys, to carry others 
along with him in his march towards perfection, to be 
continually doing all he can to enlarge and increase the 
volume of the human stream sweeping thitherward. 22 

Or again: 

'The fewer there are who follow the way to perfection, 
the harder that way is to find/ So all our fellowmen, 
in the East of London and elsewhere, we must take 
along with us in the progress towards perfection, if 
we ourselves really, as we profess, want to be perfect; 


and we must not let the worship of any fetish, any 
machinery, such as manufactures or populationwhich 
are not, like perfection, absolute goods in themselves, 
though we think them so create for us such a multi 
tude of miserable, sunken and ignorant human beings, 
that to carry them all along with us is impossible, and 
perforce they must for the most part be left by us in 
their degradation and wretchedness. 23 

The position is quite clear, and it is evidently in line with 
the basic criticism of Industrialism, and with the traditional 
reaction to the accumulating evidence of poverty and suf 
fering. Others had argued for a new national education, 
but none with the authority or effect of Arnold. Those who 
accuse him of a policy of "cultivated inaction* forget not 
only his arguments but his life. As an Inspector of schools, 
and independently, his effort to establish a system of general 
and humane education was intense and sustained. There is 
nothing of the dandy in Arnold's fight against the vicious 
mechanism of the Revised Code. On a number of similar 
educational matters of great importance he showed a fine 
capacity for detailed application of principles that in his 
theoretical writings are often open to a charge of vagueness. 
Culture and Anarchy, in fact, needs to be read alongside 
the reports, minutes, evidence to commissions and specifi 
cally educational essays which made up so large a part of 
Arnold's working life. 

When we have said this, we may have rescued Arnold 
from a common and insupportable charge, but we have not 
finally construed either his significance or his effect. The 
most interesting point to consider is his recommendation of 
the State as the agent of general perfection. Here, in part, 
he is following the ideas, and the language, of Burke. He 
speaks, characteristically, of 

ways which are naturally alluring to the feet of democ 
racy, though in this country they are novel and untried 
ways. I may call them the ways of Jacobinism. Violent 
indignation with the past, abstract systems of renova 
tion applied wholesale, a new doctrine drawn up in 
black and white for elaborating down to the very 


smallest details a rational society for the future these 
are the ways of Jacobinism. 24 

1 may call them the ways of Jacobinism' (they had been 
called this for three-quarters of a century). In any event, 
we are now well used to this kind of criticism as typical of 
the opposition to 'State 7 power. In Arnold, as in Burke, this 
is not the conjunction; the argument against 'State' power 
depends, nearly always, on who is the 'State'. Arnold's po 
sition is that of Burke: 

He who gave our nature to be perfected by our virtue 
willed also the necessary means of its perfection: He 
willed therefore the State. 25 

Arnold, similarly, imagined the State as the 'centre of light 
and authority', the organ of the 'best self. But how, in 
practical terms, was this centre to be composed? Burke had 
accepted the existing ruling class as, though imperfect, the 
natural 'centre of light and authority'. Arnold, though he 
looked at each class in turn, could find none which seemed 
to him at all qualified for so high a duty. The aristocracy 
(Barbarians) were, as a class, useless, because their char 
acteristic virtues were those created by the business of de 
fending the status quo. Their very vigour in this defence 
made them inaccessible to the free play of new ideas, on 
which light and authority' must depend. The middle 
classes (Philistines) were also useless, because of their at 
tachment to an external civilization. Their faith in 'machin 
ery' (Wealth, Industry, Production, Progress) and in in 
dividual success denied, respectively, the ^harmonious* and 
the 'general* pursuit of perfection. As for the working classes 
(Populace), they either shared with the middle classes the 
attachment to external civilization, wishing only to become 
Philistine as quickly as possible; or else they were merely 
degraded and brutal, the repository of darkness rather than 
of light. 

Others might see all this, and consequently fear the idea 
of State power, which could only be the embodiment of the 
interest of one or other of these classes. And if this were 


indeed true, could the State, in practical terms, be con 
sidered as a likely "centre of light and authority' at all? 

But how to organize this authority, or to what hands to 
entrust the wielding of it? How to get your State, 
summing up the right reason of the community, and 
giving effect to it, as circumstances may require, with 
vigour? And here I think I see my enemies waiting for 
me with a hungry joy in their eyes. But I shall elude 
them. 26 

He saw his enemies waiting indeed; and we too, who are 
not his enemies, still wait, and are still, in a sense, hungry. 
One is glad to see Arnold eluding the nineteenth-century 
pack; or to see him enjoying the thought of doing so, even 
if the glint has a certain ridiculous effect The problem, 
however, remained a most difficult one. The existing social 
classes, the ordinary candidates for power, were in Arnold's 
view inadequate for its proper exercise. The political con 
flict was merely a deadlock of their imperfections. For these 
reasons a State was needed, as an adequate and transcend 
ing organ. The classes were the embodiment of our ordinary 
selves; to embody our best self we must create a State. But 
by what means, and through what persons? Arnold's an 
swer depends on what he called the 'remnant'. In each 
class, he argued, there existed, alongside the characteristic 
majority, a minority, a number of 'aliens', who were not 
disabled by the ordinary notions and habits of their class: 

persons who are mainly led, not by their class spirit, 
but by a general humane spirit, by the love of human 
perfection. 27 

In such persons the 'best self is active, and they can try, 
in a number of ways, to awaken the T>est self that is latent 
in all men but is obscured by the inadequacies of class 
ideology and habit. The means of awakening wil include 
education, poetry and criticism. Education will base itself 
on 'the best that has been thought and written in the world'. 
By extending and communicating this record of die *best 
self' of humanity it will create an adequate general knowl 
edge and a standard of effective thinking. Poetry, as a dis- 


tinct organ of the 'best self of men, will set a standard of 
'beauty, and of a human nature perfect on all sides*. In this 
sense, adding to itself a 'religious and devout energy*, it can 
'work on a broader scale for perfection, and with greater 
masses of men', and can therefore 'save us', by providing a 
lasting and actual standard of the *best self. Finally, criti 
cism, as in his general writings Arnold exemplified it, is a 
further part of the same process: a creation, by the free 
play of intelligence, of 'the authority of the best self. These 
ways might be dismissed as impractical, but 

it may truly be averred . . . that at the present junc 
ture the centre of movement is not in the House of 
Commons. It is in the fermenting mind of the nation; 
and his is for the next twenty years the real influence 
who can address himself to this. 28 

Whatever we may think of this as an answer, we can easily 
recognize in its mood and attitude a position which since 
Arnold's day has been widely and sincerely held. It is at 
tacked as a slow and timid programme, but those who hold 
to it are entitled to ask whether any quick and ready alter 
native for the achievement of Arnold's ends has in fact, in 
the ninety years since he wrote, manifested itself. 

Nevertheless, there is a real ambiguity in the position, 
and this must be examined. For it is not merely the in 
fluence of the best individuals that Arnold is recommend 
ing; it is the embodiment of this influence in the creation of 
a State. On this point, Arnold quotes Wilhelm von Hum- 

Humboldffs object in this book (The Sphere and Du 
ties of Government) is to show that the operation of 
government ought to be severely limited to what di 
rectly and immediately relates to the security of person 
and property. Wilhelm von Humboldt, one of the most 
beautiful souls that have ever existed, used to say that 
one's business in life was first to perfect oneself by all 
the means in one's power, and secondly to try and 
create in the world around one an aristocracy, the 
most numerous that one possibly could, of talents and 


characters. He saw, of course, that in the end, every 
thing comes to {histhat the individual must act for 
himself, and must be perfect in himself; and he lived 
in a country, Germany, where people were disposed to 
act too little for themselves, and to rely too much on 
the Government. But even thus, such was his flexibil 
ity, so little was he in bondage to a mere abstract 
maxim, that he saw very well that for his purpose it 
self, of enabling the individual to stand perfect on his 
own foundations and to do without the State, the ac 
tion of the State would for long, long years be neces 
sary. And soon after he wrote his book on The Sphere 
and Duties of Government, WUhelm von Humboldt 
became Minister of Education in Prussia; and from his 
ministry all the great reforms which give the control 
of Prussian education to the State . . . take their 
origin. 20 

The relevance of this to Arnold's immediate purposes in 
State education is clear and important. He backs it up with 
a quotation from Renan: 

A Liberal believes in liberty, and liberty signifies the 
nonintervention of the State. But such an ideal is stM 
a long way off pom us, and the very means to remove 
it to an indefinite distance wotM Ibe precisely the 
State's withdrawing its action too soon. 30 

The point helps in a local argument, but the position in 
which it leaves the general argument is this: that the State 
itself must be the principal agent through which, the State 
as a 'centre of authority and fight' is to be created. Yet the 
existing State, loaded with such an agency, is in fact, on 
Arnold's showing, subject to the deadlock of the existing 
and inadequate social classes. The aristocracy uses the 
power and dignity of the State as an instrument of protec 
tion of its own privileges. The middle ckss, reacting against 
this, seeks only to diminish State power, and to leave per 
fection to those 'simple natural laws' which somehow arise 
out of unregulated individual activity. It scarcely seems 
likely, if Arnold is right about these cksses, that any actual 

134 CULTUBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

State, expressing the power of one or other of them, or a 
deadlocked compromise, could undertake the all-important 
function which, he proposes. The State which for Burke was 
an actuality has become for Arnold an idea. 

The position is further complicated by the nature of 
Arnold's reaction to his third great class, the Populace. The 
working class was organizing itself. It was, as Arnold put 
it, 'our playful giant, which was 

beginning to assert and put in practice an English 
man's right to do what he likes; his right to march 
where he likes, meet where he likes, enter where he 
likes, hoot as he likes, threaten as he likes, smash as 
he likes. All this, I say, tends to anarchy. 81 

This reaction, as we know, is a typical one, and Arnold's 
fears run deep: 

He comes in immense numbers, and is rather raw and 
rough. . . . And thus that profound sense of settled 
order and security, without which a society like ours 
cannot live and grow at all, sometimes seems to be 
beginning to threaten us with taking its departure. 82 

So great indeed is the threat that, for resisting it, even 

the lovers of culture may prize and employ fire and 
strength. 83 

With this sort of thing in his mind, Arnold's idea of the 
State as a 'centre of authority' takes on a new colouring. 

For us, who believe in right reason, in the duty and 
possibility of extricating and elevating our best self, in 
the progress of humanity towards perfection for us, 
the framework of society, that theatre on which this 
august drama has to unroll itself, is sacred; and who 
ever administers it, and however we may seek to re 
move them from their tenure of administration, yet, 
while they administer, we steadily and with undivided 
heart support them in repressing anarchy and disor 
der; because without order there can be no society, 
and without society there can be no human per 
fection. 8 * 


It is here, at so vital a point, that we see Arnold surrender 
ing to a 'stock notion or habit' of his class. The organizing, 
and at times demonstrating, working class was not, on any 
showing, seeking to destroy society as such. It was seeking 
by such methods as were available to it, to change the 
particular ordering of society which then prevailed. Often, 
indeed, it sought only the remedy of some particular griev 
ance. For Arnold to confuse the particular, temporary or 
dering of interests, which was indeed being threatened, 
with human society as such, is the confusion which else 
where he so clearly analysed: the confusion between 'ma 
chinery' and 'purpose'. The existing 'framework of society' 
is always 'machinery'. Arnold, who found it in so many 
ways so inadequate, should have known that this was so; 
and restrained his 'right reason' from the talk of 'fire and 
strength'. He is, indeed, ready for change. He looks forward 
'cheerfully and hopefully' to a 'revolution by due course of 
law'. But can it honestly be said that the working people 
asked for anything other than this, in the terms of their 
own experience? Arnold might defend himself from a 
charge of simple authoritarianism by arguing that he is con 
cerned only to ensure that necessary 'minimum of order' 
which would allow the civilizing and humanizing process to 
be sustained. But again, can it now honestly be said that 
this was threatened, when Arnold was writing? Further, 
we must remember that Arnold was asking, not for the Lib 
eral 'minimum of order', but, essentially, for the maximum 
of order: the State to become a real 'centre of authority'. 
When the emphasis on State power is so great, any con 
fusion between that ideal State which is the agent of per 
fection, and this actual State which embodies particular 
powers and interests, becomes dangerous and really dis 

The case is one which Arnold, detached from his particu 
lar position, would readily understand. A prejudice over 
comes 'right reason', and a deep emotional fear darkens the 
light. It is there in his words: hoot, bawl, threaten, rough, 
smash. This is not the language of *a stream of fresh 
thought', nor is the process it represents any kind of 'deli 
cacy and flexibility of thinking'. Calm, Arnold rightly ar- 


gued, was necessary. But now the Hyde Park railings were 
down, and it was not Arnold's best self which rose at the 
sight of them. Certainly he feared a general breakdown, 
into violence and anarchy, but the most remarkable facts 
about the British working-class movement, since its origin 
in the Industrial Revolution, are its conscious and deliberate 
abstention from general violence, and its firm faith in other 
methods of advance. These characteristics of the British 
working class have not always been welcome to its more 
romantic advocates, but they are a real human strength, 
and a precious inheritance. For it has been, always, a posi 
tive attitude: the product not of cowardice and not of apa 
thy, but of moral conviction. I think it had more to offer to 
the 'pursuit of perfection* than Matthew Arnold, seeing 
only his magnified image -of the Rough, was able to realize. 
One final point must be made about Arnold's use of the 
idea of Culture. Culture is right knowing and right doing; 
a process and not an absolute. This, indeed, is Arnold's 
doctrine. But his emphasis in detail is so much on the im 
portance of knowing, and so little on the importance of 
doing, that Culture at times seems very Hke the Dissenters* 
Salvation: a thing to secure first, to which all else will then 
be added. There is surely a danger of allowing Culture also 
to become a fetish: 'freedom is a very good horse to ride, 
but to ride somewhere*. Perfection is a 'becoming', culture 
is a process, but a part of the effect of Arnold's argument is 
to create around them a suggestion that they are known 
absolutes. One of the elements in this effect is his style. In 
a sentence Hke this, for example- 
Culture looks beyond machinery, culture hates hatred, 
culture has one great passion, the passion for sweetness 
and light 85 

it is difficult not to feel the pressure of Saint Paul's de 
scription of Charity, and it seems not improbable that there 
has been a (perhaps unconscious, but in any case invalid) 
transference of emotion from the old concept to the new. 
Culture as a substitute for religion is a very doubtful quan 
tity, especially when it is taken, as so often, in its narrowest 


sense. I agree, from a different standpoint, with Newman's 
comment on the result: 

Accordingly, virtue being only one kind of beauty, the 
principle which determines what is virtuous is, not 
conscience, but taste? 

The implied relaxation has been lived through, and at its 
worst it has not been very edifying, at its best not very 
convincing, to watch. 

Moreover, this kind of intonation of 'culture* seems to be 
largely responsible for the common English hostility to the 
word, which has in some respects been damaging. I have 
found no hostile or derisive reference before 1860, but in 
this immediate context such references are common. J. C. 
Shairp comments in 1870 on the 'artificiality' of the word. 37 
Frederic Harrison refers to 'this same . . . sauerkraut or 
culture'* 8 in the course of arguing that Arnold makes 'cul 
ture* mean whatever suits himself. Now, the challenge of 
the valuations concentrated in the idea of culture was 
bound to provoke hostility from defenders of the existing 
system. With such hostility, one wants no kind of truce. Yet 
this essential conflict has been blurred by adventitious ef 
fects. Almost all the words standing for learning, seriousness 
and reverence have in fact been compromised, and the 
struggle against this ought not to be hindered by our own 
faults of tone and feeling. The attachment to culture which 
disparages science; the attachment which writes off politics 
as a narrow and squalid misdirection of energy; the attach 
ment which appears to criticize manners by the priggish 
intonation of a word: all these, of which Arnold and his 
successors have at times been guilty, serve to nourish and 
extend an opposition which is already formidable enough. 
The idea of culture is too important to be surrendered to 
this kind of failing. 

The difficulty of tone indicates, however, a more general 
difficulty. Arnold learned from Burke, from Coleridge and 
from Newman, but he was differently constituted from each 
of them. Burke rested on an existing society, and on a faith. 
Coleridge drew nourishment, in a period of transition, from 
the values known from the old kind of society, and again 

138 CULTUBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

from a faith. Newman, more certainly than either, based 
tils thinking on a convinced experience of the divine order, 
Arnold learned from them, but he had learned, also, from 
the reformers who rejected the old kind of society and from 
the thinkers who had asserted, against the claims of the 
divine order, the supremacy of human reason. For Cole 
ridge the idea of Cultivation had at least a vestigial relation 
to an actual society: the relation is there in the word, with 
its dependence on the social idea of the cultivated man. 
For Newman, culture had a reality in experience, as an 
element of the divine perfection. Arnold grasped at these 
holds, but he had also commitments elsewhere. And it may 
of course be argued that, being thus committed, he was 
nearer the actual truth. Culture was a process, but he could 
not find the material of that process, either, with any con 
fidence, in the society of his own day, or, fully, in a recogni 
tion of an order that transcended human society. The result 
seems to be that, more and more, and against his formal 
intention, the process becomes an abstraction. Moreover, 
while appearing to resemble an absolute, it has in fact no 
absolute ground. The difficulty can be seen in such a para 
graph as this: 

Perfection will never be reached; but to recognize a 
period of transformation when it comes, and to adapt 
themselves honestly and rationally to its laws, is per 
haps the nearest approach to perfection of which men 
and nations are capable. No habits or attachments 
should prevent their trying to do this; nor indeed, in 
the long run, can they. Human thought, which made 
all institutions, inevitably saps them, resting only in 
that which is absolute and eternal. 89 

The general tone of this is convincing and admirable, but 
the final reservation the desperate grasp in the last phrase 
at a traditional hold is disabling, once he has conceded so 
much. Human thought 'makes' and 'saps* all institutions, 
yet must rest, finally, in something 'absolute and eternal': 
that is to say, by his own argument, in something above and 
beyond Institutions'. In Newman, this position might make 
sense; he could at least have said clearly what the 'absolute 


and eternal* was. Arnold, however, was caught between 
two worlds. He had admitted reason as the critic and de 
stroyer of institutions, and so could not rest on the tradi 
tional society which nourished Burke. He had admitted 
reason *human thought* as the maker of institutions, and 
thus could not see the progress of civil society as the work 
ing of a divine intention. His way of thinking about institu 
tions was in fact relativist, as indeed a reliance on 'the best 
that has been thought and written in the world* (and on 
that alone) must always be. Yet at the last moment he not 
only holds to this, but snatches also towards an absolute: 
and both are Culture. Culture became the final critic of 
institutions, and the process of replacement and betterment, 
yet it was also, at root, beyond institutions. This confusion 
of attachment was to be masked by the emphasis of a word. 
Arnold is a great and important figure in nineteenth- 
century thought. His recognition of *a period of transforma 
tion when it comes* was deep and active, as the strength of 
his essay on Equality clearly shows. Even the final break 
down in his thinking (as I judge it to be) is extremely 
important, as the mark of a continuing and genuine con 
fusion. We shall, if we are wise, continue to listen to him, 
and, when the time comes to reply, we can hardly speak 
better than in his own best spirit. For if we centre our 
attention on a tradition of thinking rather than on an iso 
lated man, we shall not be disposed to underrate what he 
did and what he represented, nor to neglect what he urged 
us, following him, to do. As he himself wrote: 

Culture directs our attention to the natural current 
there is in human affairs, and its continual working, 
and will not let us rivet our faith upon any one man 
and his doings. It makes us see, not only his good side, 
but also how much in him was of necessity limited 
and transient. . . . 40 



A. W. Pugin, John Ruskin, William Morris 

AN essential hypothesis in the development of the idea of 
culture is that the art of a period is closely and necessarily 
related to the generally prevalent 'way of life', and further 
that, in consequence, aesthetic, moral and social judgements 
are closely interrelated. Such a hypothesis is now so gen 
erally accepted, as a matter of intellectual habit, that it is 
not always easy to remember that it is, essentially, a product 
of the intellectual history of the nineteenth century. One 
of the most important forms of tihe Hypothesis is, of course, 
that of Marx, to which I shall return. But there is another 
line, of great importance in nineteenth-century England, in 
which the important names are Pugin, Ruskin and Morris. 
As an idea, the relation between periods of art and periods 
of society is to be found earlier, in Europe, in the work of, 
among others, Vico and Herder and Montesquieu. But the 
decisive emphasis in England begins in the 18305, and it 
is an emphasis which was at once novel and welcome. Sir 
Kenneth Clark in The Gothic Revival is explicit about the 

Standard writers of art criticism Aristotle, Longinus, 
and Horace all described art as something imposed, 
so to speak, from without. The idea of style as some 
thing organically connected with society, something 
which springs inevitably from a way of life, does not 
occur, as far as I know, in the Eighteenth Century. 1 

And that the new emphasis was welcome, a development 
which other currents of tMnking had prepared, may be 
judged from the extraordinary influence which first Pugin, 
and later Ruskin, almost immediately exerted. If we remem 
ber the direction of parts of the Romantic theory of art, 


and the examination, in Coleridge and Carlyle, of the re 
lations between 'culture' and 'civilization', we shall see that, 
in fact, the ground had been very well prepared. 

The history of architectore is the history of the world,' 
Pugin wrote, in his Apology for the Present Revival of 
Christian Architecture in England (1843). ^Different na 
tions have given birth to so many various styles of Archi 
tecture, each suited to their climate, customs, and religion,* 
he had written earlier, in 1835, in Contrasts: or a Parallel 
between the Noble Edifices of the Middk Ages, and Corre 
sponding Buildings of the Present Day, shewing the Pres 
ent Decay of Taste. Pugin was writing, of course, with 
evident polemical and practical intent; his concern, as 
another title shows, was to define the True Principles of 
Pointed or Christian Architecture ( 1841) , so that 'the pres 
ent degraded state of ecclesiastical buildings* might be 
remedied. In his advocacy of the Gothic style he had, of 
course, been widely preceded. His father, A. C. Pugin, had 
edited two volumes of Specimens of Gothic Architecture, 
and Shaw, Savage and especially James Wyatt had, among 
other architects, tried to build in this way. The new element 
in the younger Pugin was his insistence that revival of the 
style must depend on revival of the feelings from which it 
originally sprang: the architectural revival must be part of 
a general religious, and truly Catholic, revival. This con 
trolling principle is evident in Ms remark in tie Preface to 
the second edition of Contrasts: 'revivals of ancient archi 
tecture, although erected In, are not buildings of, the nine- 
teenlfh century*. Such a judgement serves to distinguish 
Pugin from the Gothic Revivalists who had preceded him. 
He was not offering Gothic as one of a number of possible 
styles from which the competent architect might choose, 
but rather as the embodiment of 'true Christian feeling*, 
which, understood in this way, might be helped to revive. 
It is very curious, of course, to find this principle of the 
necessary relation between art and its period being enun 
ciated in the context of a revivalist tract. This paradox was 
to have its own effect on the subsequent history of 'Gothic* 
building. Yet the dominant mediaevalism, here as elsewhere 


in nineteenth-century thought, had by-products more im 
portant than its formal advocacy. The most important ele 
ment in social thinking which developed from the work of 
Pugin was the use of the art of a period to judge the quality 
of the society that was producing it. To this, Pugin himself 
made a notable contribution. 

In the text of the Contrasts, he writes, significantly: 

The erection of churches, like all that was produced by 
zeal or art in ancient days, has dwindled down into a 
mere trade. . . . They are erected by men who pon 
der between a mortgage, a railroad, or a chapel, as 
the best investment of their money, and who, when 
they have resolved on relying on the persuasive elo 
quence of a cushion-thumping, popular preacher, 
erect four walls, with apertures for windows, cram the 
same full of seats, which they readily let; and so 
greedy after pelf are these chapel-raisers, that they 
form dry and spacious vaults underneath, which are 
soon occupied, at a good rent, by some wine and 
brandy merchant. 2 

This kind of extension, from an architectural to a social 
judgement, is brilliantly continued in the actual contrasts, 
the paired engravings. A contrast of altars is immediately 
followed by the Contrasted Residences for the Poor: the one 
a Benthamite Panopticon, with its attendant Master, armed 
with whip and leg-irons, its diet-sheet of bread, gniel and 
potatoes, and its pauper dead being carried away for dis 
section; the other a monastery, in a natural relationship 
with its surrounding countryside, with its kindly master, its 
well-clothed poor, its religious burials, and its diet-sheet of 
beef, mutton, bacon, ale and cheese. The 'past and present' 
theme occurs again, in social terms, in the contrasted public 
conduits, of which the modern version, surmounted by a 
lamp-post, is set in front of the police-station: the pump is 
locked, and a child who wants to drink is being warned off 
by a constable carrying a truncheon. The widest contrast, 
however, is between a 'Catholic town in 1440* and 'The 
Same Town in 1840'. It is not only that several of the me- 


diaeval churches have been spoiled, architecturally, and 
have been interspersed with bare dissenting chapels. It is 
also that the abbey is ruined, and is now bordered by an 
ironworks; that the churchyard of St Michael's on the Hill 
is now occupied by a 'New Parsonage House and Pleasure 
Grounds'; and that in addition to such new institutions as a 
'Town Hall and Concert Room' and a 'Socialist Hall of Sci 
ence' there are, dominating the foreground, the New Jail 
(again a panopticon) , the Gas Works and the Lunatic Asy 
lum. From criticizing a change of architecture, Pugin has 
arrived at criticizing a civilization; and he does so in terms 
that became familiar enough during the remaining part of 
the century. The relations with Carlyle, Ruskin and Morris, 
and with figures in our own century, are clear and un 

Both Ruskin and Morris were, in fact, unkind in their 
references to Pugin; but this is mainly due to their differ 
ence from him, and from each other, in matters of belief. 
Ruskin, for example, wanted to capture Gothic for Protes 
tantism, and was therefore bound to oppose Pugin; whereas 
for Morris, Pugin's prejudice against anything to do with 
the working-class movement was sufficiently distasteful. 

Ruskin, more than any other nineteenth-century figure, 
is now very difficult to approach. One has indeed to cut 
one's way back to him through a mass of irrelevant material 
and reactions. The successors of Lytton Strachey have ap 
plied to him, as to Carlyle, an almost wholly irresponsible 
biographical attention; while his own more interesting writ 
ings are comparatively little read. It is worth turning back 
to the comment of a contemporary reader, which will in 
dicate the more general problem: 

I don't know whether you look out for Ruskin's books 
whenever they appear. His little book on the Political 
Economy of Art contains some magnificent passages, 
mixed up with stupendous specimens of arrogant ab 
surdity on some economical points. But I venerate him 
as one of the great teachers of the day. The grand 
doctrines of truth and sincerity in art, and the noble 
ness and solemnity of our human Hf e, which he teaches 

144 CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

with the inspiration of a Hebrew prophet, must be 
stirring up young minds in a promising way. 3 

The writer is George Eliot, in a letter to Miss Sara Hennell. 
If one takes her comment point by point, and sets it beside 
the conventional modern reaction, the difficulty of a return 
to Ruskin becomes sufficiently apparent. We should, of 
course, be far less sure than she was of his 'arrogant ab 
surdity on some economical points'. It is true that Ruskin 
has now no sort of authority as an economist, but his ap 
proach to social and economic problems is very much 
nearer our own than is the normal approach of his con 
temporaries. With George Eliot's reservation discounted, 
however, we should begin a different kind of amendment. 
'The grand doctrines of truth and sincerity in art', if indeed 
such a formulation meant anything to us at all, would be 
merely a cue for our rejection of Ruskin's aesthetics. The 
nobleness and solemnity of our human life', when we had 
pondered the phrase, would seem a very general thing to 
begin teaching upon. 'The inspiration of a Hebrew prophet', 
and the 'magnificent passages', indicate only why Ruskin is 
now reputed so difficult to read. And the Ruskin Societies 
are dead, the books with their extraordinary titles neg 
lected, while we occupy ourselves with a discussion of his 
sexual life more sterile than any nullity. Yet, without ques 
tion, Ruskin must still be read if the tradition is to be under 
stood. It does not seem to me (as it does to Dr Leavis) 
'fairly easy to say what his place and significance are'. The 
reading has to be done, and in relation to the tradition- 
otherwise we shall fall into the other error, of Mr Graham 
Hough, in assuming that 'the new ideas about the arts and 
their relations to religion and the social order all (seem) to 
originate somewhere in the dense jungle of Ruskin's works'. 
Ruskin is best understood, and necessarily read, as a major 
contributor to the development of our complex ideas of 

Ruskin was an art critic before he was a social critic, but 
his work must now be seen as a whole. The worst biogra 
phies have put into circulation a number of discreditable 


motives for his 'transfer of interest* from art to society. It 
has been suggested that his social criticism 

was a passing-on of the indictment of Effie, a suit for 
nullity proclaimed against England. 4 

Mr Wilenski, who can see the crudity of this, implies that 
the social criticism was the result of Ruskin s failure to cap 
ture something called the 'Art Dictatorship' in the fifties. 
But in fact the nature of Ruskin's thinking, and of the tra 
dition as a whole, made the inclusive examination of both 
art and society a quite natural thing. There is, also, suffi 
cient evidence of Ruskin's direct reaction to the evils of 
industrialism; and it is perhaps we, not Ruskin, who are on 
questionable ground when we suppose that social criticism 
requires some special (usually disreputable) explanation. 
It remains true, however, that Ruskin's social criticism 
would not have taken the same form if it had not arisen, as 
it did inevitably, from his kind of thinking about the pur 
poses of art. 

The central nature of Ruskin's concern may be seen in 
one of his early definitions of Beauty: 

By the term Beauty . . . properly are signified two 
things. First, that external quality of bodies . . . 
which, whether it occur in a stone, flower, beast, or in 
man, is absolutely identical; which , . . may be shown 
to be in some sort typical of the Divine attributes, and 
which therefore I ... call Typical Beauty: and sec 
ondarily, the appearance of felicitous fulfilment of 
function in living things, more especially of the joyful 
and right exertion of perfect Me in man; and this kind 
of beauty I ... call Vital Beauty. 5 

Here, indeed, is the basis of his whole work. In his criticism 
of art, his standard was always this Typical Beauty*, the 
absolute evidence, in works of art, of the 'universal grand 
design*. In his social criticism, his concern was with the 
'felicitous fulfilment of function in living things', and with 
the conditions of the 'joyful and right exertion of perfect 
lif e in man'. The absolute standard of perfection in works of 
art; the conditions of perfection in man: these are the com- 


mon bases of the tradition. Both sides of Raskin's work are 
comprised in an allegiance to the same single term, Beauty; 
and the idea of Beauty (which in his writings is virtually 
interchangeable with Truth) rests fundamentally on belief 
in a universal, divinely appointed order. The art criticism 
and the social criticism, that is to say, are inherently and 
essentially related, not because one follows from the other, 
but because both are applications, in particular directions, 
of a fundamental conviction. 

The purpose of art, according to Ruskin, is to reveal as 
pects of the universal *Beauty' or 'Truth'. The. artist is one 
who, in Carlyle's words, "reads the open secret of the uni 
verse*. Art is not 'imitation', in the sense of illusionist rep 
resentation, or an adherence to the rules of models; but Art 
is 'imitation*, in the older sense of an embodiment of aspects 
of the universal, 'ideal' truth. These essential doctrines were 
ready to Ruskin's hand, from Romantic theory, and there 
was the additional emphasis, seen in Pugin and the ideas of 
The Ecdesiologist and the Camden Society, on the neces 
sary goodness (moral goodness) of the artist, charged with 
this high function of revelation. Any corruption of the art 
ist's nature would blur or distort his capacity for realizing 
and communicating the ideal, essential beauty. But, Ruskin 
added (and here again he is influenced by the Pugin rela 
tion between the quality of a society and the quality of its 
art) , it is impossible, finally, for the artist to be good if his 
society is corrupt. Ruskin's constant definition of this theme 
is now unfashionable, but is still significant. 

The art of any country is the exponent of its social and 
political virtues. The art, or general productive and 
formative energy, of any country, is an exact exponent 
of its ethical life. You can have noble art only from 
noble persons, associated under laws fitted to their 
time and circumstances. 6 

The question of the 'goodness* of the artist is, however, 
c*t times ambiguous. At times, he must be good in order to 
reveal essential Beauty; at other times he is good because 
he reveals essential Beauty other criteria of goodness are 
irrelevant. The latter will be recognized as characteristic of 


what was later called 'aestheticism', a body of feeling from 
which Ruskin is not always distinct. Consider, for example: 

As the great painter is not allowed to be indignant or 
exclusive, it is not possible for him to nourish his (so- 
called) spiritual desires, as it is to an ordinarily virtu 
ous person. Your ordinarily good man absolutely 
avoids, either for fear of getting harm, or because he 
has no pleasure in such places or people, all scenes 
that foster vice, and all companies that delight in it. 
. . . But you can't learn to paint of blackbirds, nor by 
singing hymns. You must be in the wildness of the 
midnight masque in the misery of the dark street at 
dawn . . .on the moor with the wanderer or the 
robber. . . . Does a man die at your feet, your busi 
ness is not to help him, but to note the colour of his 
lips; does a woman embrace her destruction before 
you, your business is not to save her, but to watch how 
she bends her arms. T 

So extreme a position, of a subsequently familiar kind, is 
not, however, Ruskin's normal conclusion. The aberration, 
here as in the more general movement, sprang from the 
implications of the claim of the artist as an instrument of 
revelation, in conflict with a corrupt society: one in which 
morality, normally, was little more than negative. Ruskin, 
characteristicaEy, insisted on the need for positive spiritual 
goodness in artists, and it is only occasionally that he is 
betrayed into that substitution of art for life which is, per 
haps, always latent in a conception of the artist as one who 
reveals a more than ordinary reality. Certainly, as a rule, 
he did not grant exemption to artists from common ethical 
considerations. He insisted, rather, on the contrary: on the 
artist's r61e as an agent of general perfection, and on the 
dependence of this on his positive personal goodness. 

So moral an emphasis became unfashionable, hut Ruskin, 
although he described the greatest art as that which was 
'capable of arousing the greatest number of the greatest 
ideas*, did not in fact separate the 'great ideas* from the 
actual business of painting: 


It is well when we have strong moral or poetical feel 
ing manifested in painting, to mark this as the best 
part of the work; but it is not well to consider as a 
thing of small account the painter's language in which 
that feeling is conveyed; for if that language be not 
good and lovely, the man indeed may be a just moral 
ist or a great poet, but he is not a painter, and it was 
wrong of him to paint. ... If the man be a painter 
indeed, and have the gift of colours and lines, what 
is in him will come from his hand freely and faith 
fully; and the language itself is so difficult and so vast, 
that the mere possession of it argues that the man is 
great, and that his works are worth reading. . . . 
Neither have I ever seen a good expressional work 
without high artistical merit; and that this is ever 
denied is only owing to the narrow view which men 
are apt to take both of expression and of art; a nar 
rowness consequent on their own especial practice and 
habits of thought. 8 

Thus a man is not a good artist merely because he has good 
ideas, but, rather, the artist's apprehension of good ideas is 
an Intrinsic element of his artist's skill. The quality of seeing, 
the special quality of apprehension of essential form: these 
are the particular faculties through which the artist reveals 
the essential truth of things. His goodness, as artist, depends 
on these special qualities; but then, to communicate, he de 
pends on the existence of these same qualities, in some de 
gree, in others; he depends, that is to say, on their active 
presence in society. Here is a main line to RusMn's radical 
criticisms of nineteenth-century society: for he finds such 
qualities generally lacking, prevented from emergence by 
an imposed mechanical habit of apprehension. In these cir 
cumstances, a great national art was impossible. 

Once again, a particular kind of experience, here most 
powerfully identified with the arts, is being used as a stand 
ard of the health of a civilization. In a civilization in which 
such kinds of experience are being constantly overlaid by 
the attitudes of industrialism, Ruskin argues not only that a 
national art is impossible, but that the civilization itself is 


therefore bad. The key words of the opposition of kinds of 
experience are, once again, mechanical and organic. For 
what the artist perceives is 'organic', not 'external', form. 
The universal life which he reveals is that organic life, 
Ruskin's 'Typical Beauty*, which is common throughout the 
universe, and is in fact the form of God. The artist sees this 
typical beauty as a whole process: art is not merely the 
product of an 'aesthetic* faculty, but an operation of the 
whole being. The artist's goodness is also his 'wholeness', 
and the goodness of a society lies in its creation of the 
conditions for 'wholeness of being'. The decisive stage in 
Ruskin's formulation of this position was in the work pre 
paratory to his Stones of Venice. He was judging artists by 
their degree of 'wholeness', and, when he found variations 
of degree, he sought to explain them by corresponding 
variations in the 'wholeness* of man's life in society: 

so forcing me into the study of the history of Venice 
herself; and through that into what else I have traced 
or told of the laws of national strength and virtue. 9 

The transition to social criticism is then quite natural, 
within the forms of Ruskin's thinking. It is best understood, 
as I have indicated, in the context of a general transition 
between thinking about art and thinking about society: the 
transition which is marked, in all its complexity of reference, 
by the changes in the meanings of culture. The 'organic 
society*, the 'whole way of life', and similar phrases, are 
certainly open to charges of obscurity, but they are not in 
any case likely to be understood except by reference to 
conceptions of experience, largely drawn from the practice 
and study of art, which are their basis and substance. We 
have seen how the idea of 'wholeness', as a distinguishing 
quality of the mind of the artist, led Ruskin into a criticism 
of society by the same criterion, which was in fact to be 
most influential. We must now see how his conception of 
Beauty directed his continuing social thinking. The artist's 
standard was 'Typical Beauty*, but, rekted to this, and ex 
tending beyond the sphere of art, was the other category, 
'Vital Beauty': 


the felicitous fulfilment of function in living things, 
more especially of the joyful and right exertion of per 
fect Me in man. 10 

This, throughout Ruskin's work, was to be the standard by 
which a society must be judged: whether in its essential 
order it created the conditions for such a fulfilment. The 
relation of such a standard to the ideas of Burke, Coleridge, 
Carlyle and Arnold is evident: the central word of all these 
ideas, in their reference to society, is the perfection of man. 
In Ruskin, it will be noted, it is the exertion, rather than 
the discovery, of 'perfect life in man'; and it is 'felicitous 
fulfilment of function the word function carrying an ines 
capable reference to the idea of design. It is here, as in all 
generally conservative criticism of laissez-faire society, that 
the greatest difficulty shows itself. If Ruskin's criticisms of 
the nineteenth-century economy are examined piecemeal, 
he may at times be seen as a socialist forerunner as indeed 
he has been often described. It is perhaps true that the 
ideas of an 'organic* society are an essential preparation for 
socialist theory, and for the more general attention to a 
'whole way of life*, in opposition to theories which consist 
ently reduce social to individual questions, and which sup 
port legislation of an individualist as opposed to a collec- 
tivist land. But the theories can hardly be abstracted from 
actual social situations, and the 'organic' theory has in fact 
been used in support of very different, and even opposing, 
causes. The detail of much of Ruskin's criticism of a laissez- 
faire society was in fact perfectly acceptable to socialists; 
but the ideas of design and function, as he expressed them, 
supported not a socialist idea of society but rather an au 
thoritarian idea, which included a very emphatic hierarchy 
of classes. One who learned much from him, J. A. Hobson, 
put this point precisely: 

This organic conception everywhere illuminates his 
theory and his practical constructive policy: it gives 
order to his conception of the different industrial 
classes and to the relations of individual members of 
each class: it releases him from the mechanical atomic 
notion of equality, and compels him to develop an or- 


derly system of interdependence sustained by author 
ity and obedience. 11 

In this respect Ruskin is very far from socialism., as, for 
similar reasons, was Carlyle. It is, however, perhaps one of 
the most important facts about English social thinking in 
the nineteenth century that there grew up, in opposition to 
a laissez-faire society, this organic conception, stressing in 
terrelation and interdependence. This conception was at one 
point the basis of an attack on the conditions of men in 
Industrial production', the 'cash-nexus* their only active re 
lation, and on the claims of middle-class political democ 
racy. Meanwhile, at another point it was the basis of an 
attack on industrial capitalism, and on the limitations of 
triumphant middle-class liberalism. One kind of conserva 
tive thinker, and one kind of socialist thinker, seemed thus 
to use the same terms, not only for criticizing a laissez-faire 
society, but also for expressing the idea of a superior soci 
ety. This situation has persisted, in that 'organic' is now a 
central term both in this kind of conservative thinking and 
in Marxist thinking. The common enemy (or, if it is pre 
ferred, the common defender of the true faith) is Lib 

Burke was perhaps the last serious thinker who could 
find the 'organic* in an existing society. As the new indus 
trial society established itself, critics like Carlyle and Rus- 
kiii could find the 'organic* image only in a backward look: 
this is the basis of their 'mediaevalism*, and of that of others. 
It was not, in this tradition, until Morris that this image 
acquired a distinctly future reference the image of social 
ism. Even in Morris, as we shall see, the backward reference 
is still important and active. RusMn, like Carlyle, was one 
of the destroyers of Liberalism: this may now be seen as 
his merit. It is for his destructive social criticism that he is 

The basic indictment is in the chapter On the Nature of 

The great cry that rises from all our manufacturing 

cities, louder than their furnace blast, is all in very 
deed for thisthat we manufacture everything there 


except men; we blanch cotton, and strengthen steel, 

and refine sugar, and shape pottery; but to brighten, 

to strengthen, to refine or to form a single living spirit, 
never enters into our estimate of advantages. And all 
the evil to which that cry is urging our myriads can 
be met only in one way: not by teaching or preaching, 
for to teach them is but to show them their misery, 
and to preach to them, if we do nothing more than 
preach, is to mock at it. It can be met only by a right 
understanding on the part of all classes, of what kinds 
of labour are good for men, raising them, and making 
them happy. 12 

*A right understanding of what kinds of labour*: this is the 
fundamental emphasis. Not labour for profit, or for produc 
tion, or for the smooth functioning of the existing order; 
but the 'right kind of labour* *the felicitous fulfilment of 
function in living things*. A society is to be governed by no 
other purposes than what is 'good for men, raising them, 
and making them happy* 'the joyful and right exertion of 
perfect life in man*. Immediately, as part of the same argu 
ment, Rusldn introduces his criterion of 'wholeness*: 

We have much studied and much perfected, of late, 
the great civilized invention of the division of labour; 
only we have given it a false name. It is not, truly 
speaking, the labour that is divided; but the men: 
Divided into mere segments of men broken into small 
fragments and crumbs of life. . . . You are put to 
stern choice in this matter. You must either make a 
tool of the creature, or a man of him. You cannot make 
both. ... It is verily this degradation of the opera 
tive into a machine, which, more than any other evil 
of the times, is leading the mass of the nations every 
where into vain, incoherent, destructive struggling for 
a freedom of which they cannot explain the nature to 
themselves. Their universal outcry against wealth, and 
against nobility, is not forced from them either by the 
pressure of famine, or by the sting of mortified pride. 
These do much, and have done much, in all ages; but 
the foundations of society were never yet shaken as 


they are at this day. It Is not that men are ill fed, but 

that they have no pleasure in the work hy which they 
make their bread, and therefore look to wealth as the 
only means of pleasure. It is not that men are pained 
by the scorn of the upper classes, but they cannot en 
dure their own; for they feel that the land of labour to 
which they are condemned is verily a degrading one, 
and makes them less than men. 13 

This emphasis on the land of labour* created by an indus 
trial system was to be widely adopted. It is the basis of 
Ruskin's social values: the contrast between the land of 
labour' which the system made necessary, and the 'right 
kind of labour'. The contrast is supported by his important 
analysis of Wealth. Wealth, he argues, is that which 'avails 
for life*. It is, as everyone agrees, the possession of 'goods', 
but 'goods* cannot be a neutral word; it involves, neces 
sarily, a positive valuation. Wealth is not automatically 
equivalent with possessions and production, for of these 
some part are Wealth, and some part (in the useful word 
that Ruskin coined) Ulth. Wealth is 'the possession of useful 
things, which we can use'. And 'usefulness' is determined 
by 'Intrinsic Value*, that is to say the extent to which it 
'avails for life*. Intrinsic value is 

independent of opinion, and of quantity. Think what 
you will of it, gain how much you may of it, the value 
of the thing itself is neither greater nor less. For ever 
it avails, or avails not; no estimate can raise, no disdain 
repress, the power which it holds from the Maker of 
things and of men. 14 

Value is intrinsic because it is a part of the 'universal grand 
design*. It must not, in this sense, be confused with 'ex 
change value*, which is only the price its possessor will take 
for some labour or commodity. Intrinsic value is not deter 
mined by this, which is a temporary and often defective 
estimate. Value rests properly only in the fitness of such 
labour or commodity as a means to 'the joyful and right 
exertion of perfect life in man*. 
This position was necessarily a fundamental challenge 


to the nineteenth-century system of production, and to the 
laws of political economy' which supported it. Value, 
wealth, labour were taken out of the jurisdiction of the law 
of supply and demand, and related to a wholly different 
social judgement. In asserting this Ruskin was also, neces 
sarily, asserting the idea of a social order . At the root of all 
his thinking is his idea of 'function* the fulfilment of each 
man's part in the general design. Such a fulfilment was only 
possible if society was regulated in terms of the general 
design: a society must regulate itself by attention to In 
trinsic values' primarily, and anything which prevented this 
must be swept away. But a system of production geared 
only to the laws of supply and demand made regulation 
impossible, for it reduced men to available labour and thus 
made impossible any 'whole fulfilment' of their ultimate 
function as human beings. There could be only one right 
economy: that which led men to *the joyful and right ex 
ertion of perfect life'. Political economy was 

neither an art nor a science; but a system of conduct 
and legislature, founded on the sciences, directed by 
the arts, and impossible, except under certain condi 
tions of moral culture. 15 

To these "conditions of moral culture', and to an economic 
order morally determined, the principal obstacle was an 
economic system based on competition: 

Government and Co-operation are . . . the Laws of 
Life. Anarchy and Competition the Laws of Death. 16 

Thus, the contrast between culture and anarchy was again 
made, but now in terms that directly challenged the basic 
principles of nineteenth-century industrial economy. Not 
only was the supply of real "wealth* impossible under such 
conditions: production, at hazard, being both wealth and 
illth. But also the effects of competition extended to con 
sumption. Wealth was 'the possession of useful articles 
which we can use\ ir So that even if the existing system 
always produced useful articles, the kind of society which 
it also produced made just distribution and wise consump 
tion difficult or impossible. And since 'intrinsic value' de- 


pended not only on the value of the thing in itself, but, by 
its relation to 'function' in the general design, on its right 
and valuable use, the question of the wealth of a society 
could not be settled by attention to production only, but 
necessarily involved the whole Me of a society. A society 
had to be judged in terms of all its making and using, and 
in terms of all the human activities and relationships which 
the methods of manufacture and consumption brought into 

A good example of Ruskin's assertion of this principle is 
contained in a speech made at Bradford: 

You must remember always that your business, as 
manufacturers, is to form the market, as much as to 
supply it. If, in short-sighted and reckless eagerness 
for wealth, you catch at every humour of the populace 
as it shapes itself into momentary demandif, in jeal- 
lous rivalry with neighbouring States, or with other 
producers, you try to attract attention by singularities, 
novelties, and gaudinesses, to make every design an 
advertisement, and pilfer every idea of a successful 
neighbour's, that you may insidiously imitate it, or 
pompously eclipse no good design will ever be possi 
ble to you, or perceived by you. You may, by accident, 
snatch the market; or, by energy, command it; you 
may obtain the confidence of the public, and cause 
the ruin of opponent houses; or you may, with equal 
justice of fortune, be ruined by them. But whatever 
happens to you, this, at least, is certain, that the whole 
of your life will have been spent in corrupting public 
taste and encouraging public extravagance. Every 
preference you have won by gaudiness must have 
been based on the purchaser's vanity; every demand 
you have created by novelty has fostered in the con 
sumer a habit of discontent; and when you retire into 
inactive life, you may, as a subject of consolation for 
your declining years, reflect that precisely according to 
the extent of your past operations, your life has been 
successful in retarding the arts, tarnishing the virtues, 
and confusing the manners of your country. 18 


Tills is Ruskin at his best, and the passage, for all the cal 
culation of its rhetoric, comes through to our own century 
and our own social situation with all the penetration of 
genius. What is interesting also is that Ruskin is here dis 
cussing design 'industrial design' as we should now call it. 
The argument is a practical example of his refusal to treat 
aesthetic questions in isolation: good design in industry, he 
argued, depended on the right organization of industry, and 
this in turn, through labour and consumption, on the right 
organization of society. He made the point in a negative 
way, in another speech at Bradford, where he had been 
invited to lecture in the Town Hal on the best style of 
building for a new Exchange: 

I do not care about this Exchange, because you don't. 
. . . You think you may as well have the right thing 
for your money. You know there are a great many odd 
styles of architecture about; you don't want to do any 
thing ridiculous; you hear of me, among others, as a 
respectable architectural man-milliner; and you send 
for me, that I may tell you the leading fashion; and 
what is, in our shops, for the moment, the newest and 
sweetest thing in pinnacles. 19 

But architecture was the expression of a whole way of life, 
and the only appropriate style for their Exchange would be 

built to your great Goddess of 'Getting-on*. ... I can 
only at present suggest decorating its frieze with pend 
ant purses; and making its pillars broad at the base, for 
the sticking of bills. 20 

The tone of this sufficiently indicates the nature of Ras 
kin's attack on nineteenth-century society. There is some 
thing of Pugin in it, and something of Arnold; but, more 
certainly than either of these, Ruskin pressed home his 
criticism to the actual economic system which seemed to 
him to be at the root of the matter. Arnold's is very much 
more the flexible intelligence, but he falls notably short of 
Ruskin in terms of penetration. The difference may be seen, 


perhaps, in the fact that when the essays composing Unto 
this Last were published in the Comhill, the editor discon 
tinued them because of violent protest and indignation; 
whereas Culture and Anarchy, when started through the 
same medium, was at least tolerated. Ruskin, in the opinion 
of his contemporaries, was not only 'stupendously and ar 
rogantly absurd ... on some economical points'; he was 
writing in a deliberate attempt to alter an economic sys 
tem. Arnold on the other hand, where he was opposed, was 
blamed as a prig; the "bookish and pedantic* dismissal was 
easily available, and the criticism did not hurt in the same 
way. Yet both Arnold and Buskin are, in the end, victims 
of abstraction in their social criticism: Arnold, because he 
shirked extending his criticism of ideas to criticism of the 
social and economic system from which they proceeded; 
Ruskin, as becomes apparent in his proposals for reform, 
because he was committed to an idea of 'inherent design' 
as a model for society a commitment which led him into 
a familiar type of general replanning of society on paper, 
without close attention to existing forces and institutions. 
His criticism is always close, because he saw industriaHsm 
and hated it. His proposals for reform, on the other hand, 
are abstract and dull. 

The basic idea of 'organic form* produced, in Ruskin's 
thinking about an ideal society, the familiar notion of a pa 
ternal State. He wished to see a rigid class-structure cor 
responding to his ideas of 'function*. It was the business of 
government, he argued, to produce, accumulate, and dis 
tribute real wealth, and to regulate and control its con 
sumption. Government was to be guided in this by the prin 
ciples of intrinsic value which became apparent in any right 
reading of the universal design. Democracy must be re 
jected: for its conception of the equality of men was not 
only untrue; it was also a disabling denial of order and 
'function*. The ruling class must be the existing aristocracy, 
properly trained in its function: 

The office of the upper classes ... as a body, is to 
keep order among their inferiors, and raise them al- 


ways to the nearest level with themselves of which 
those inferiors are capable, 21 

This of course is Carlyle again, hut it is interesting to notice 
also that RusMn's definition of the three functional orders 
of aristocracy corresponds exactly with that of Coleridge: 
first estate, landowners; second estate, merchants and 
manufacturers; third estate, 'scholars and artists' (Cole 
ridge's 'clerisy'). These three groups, working together, 
would ensure order, initiate lionest production and just dis 
tribution', and, by the training of taste, develop 'wise con 
sumption'. All would be educated by the State, and receive 
salaries from it, for the proper performance of these func 
tions. Below this ruling class, the basic form of society 
would be the 'guild*, with a variety of grades for each kind 
of work. The guilds would take over the functions of the 
existing capitalist employer, and would regulate conditions 
of work and quality of product. Finally, at the base of this 
edifice would be a class whose business was the 'necessarily 
inferior labour'. This class would include criminals, men on 
probation, and a certain number of Volunteers* from the 
aristocracy. The Commonwealth thus established would en 
sure 'felicitous fulfilment of function', and the 'joyful and 
right exertion of perfect We in man'! Moreover, it would 

upon a foundation of eternal law, which nothing can 
alter nor overthrow. 22 

Ruskin's scheme has its relations with many earlier and 
later conceptions of society. But the problem, when it had 
been drawn up, was what to do about getting it imple 
mented. There was no force to which Ruskin could appeal, 
and increasingly, as he got older, he narrowed his range to 
that of local, small-scale experiment. The Guild of Saint 
George was established, with himself as Master; Carlyle, 
who had always a shrewd sense of the practical, said at 
once that such a thing was nonsense. It was not, however, 
Rusldn's personal nonsense alone; this is where the bio 
graphical emphasis is most misleading. This kind of dead 
lock, followed by absurd attempts to break it, is really a 


general phenomenon. The image of a society organized in 
terms of value is recurring and inevitable. In Ruskin, as in 
so many others, the failure was one of realization. His so 
ciety was an image without energy, because the necessary 
social commitment could not or would not be made. And 
because this is a general phenomenon, we have to look at 
the deadlock very carefully. It is not enough to rationalize 
it and blame Ruskin for, say, 'mediaevalism*. In fact, Rus 
kin knew quite well that mediaevalism was inadequate: 

We don't want either the life or the decorations of the 
thirteenth century back again; and the circumstances 
with which you must surround your (sc, Bradford) 
workmen are those simply of happy modern English 
lif e . . . The designs you have now to ask for from 
your workmen are such as will make modern English 
life beautiful. All that gorgeousness of the Middle 
Ages, beautiful as it sounds in description, noble as in 
many respects it was in reality, had, nevertheless, for 
foundation and for end, nothing but the pride of life 
the pride of the so-called superior classes; a pride 
which supported itself by violence and robbery, and 
led in the end to the destruction both of the arts them 
selves and the States in which they flourished. 23 

This was a just recognition that tibe real issues were always 
immediate and contemporary, and that the establishment 
of a new kind of society had to begin in conditions of the 
old anarchy which it sought to replace. Beyond this recog 
nition, however, Ruskin cannot help us. His remarkable and 
admirable enquiry into the values of his society brought us 
to this point, but could not take us past it. And it is pre 
cisely here that our attention is drawn to the man most im 
mediately and deeply influenced by Ruskin, William Mor 
ris. The significance of Morris in this tradition, is that he 
sought to attach its general values to an actual and growing 
social force: that of the organized working class. This was 
the most remarkable attempt that had so far been made to 
break the general deadlock. 

Morris's own retrospective account of his development is 
clear and interesting: 

160 CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

Before the uprising of modern Socialism almost all in 
telligent people either were, or professed themselves 
to be, quite contented with the civilization of this cen 
tury. Again, almost all of these really were thus con 
tented, and saw nothing to do but to perfect the said 
civilization by getting rid of a few ridiculous survivals 
of the barbarous ages. 24 * 

(This, evidently, is Morris's judgement of the utilitarian 

To be short, this was the Whig frame of mind, natural 
to the modern prosperous middle-class men, who, in 
fact, as far as mechanical progress is concerned, have 
nothing to ask for, if only Socialism would leave them 
alone to enjoy their plentiful style. But besides these 
contented ones there were others who were not really 
contented, but had a vague sentiment of repulsion to 
the triumph of civilization, but were coerced into si 
lence by the measureless power of Whiggery. 246 

(Civilization, in this last sentence, is used in a Coleridgian 
sense, as a limited term. In the previous sentence, the limit 
ing function of mechanical is also evident. These are the 
traditional terms.) 

Lastly, there were a few who were in open rebellion 
against the said Whiggery a few, say two, Carlyle 
and Ruskin. The latter, before my days of practical 
socialism, was my master towards the ideal. 240 

Thus Morris acknowledges both the tradition and his own 
extension of it He now restates the grounds of the opposi 
tion to 'civilization': 

Apart from the desire to produce beautiful things, the 
leading passion of my Me has been and is hatred of 
modern civilization. . . . What shall I say concerning 
its mastery of and its waste of mechanical power, its 
commonwealth so poor, its enemies of the common 
wealth so rich, its stupendous organization for the 
misery of life! Its contempt of simple pleasures, which 
everyone could enjoy but for its folly? Its eyeless vul- 


garity which has destroyed art, the one certain solace 
of labour? . . . The struggles of mankind for many 
ages had produced nothing but this sordid, aimless, 
ugly confusion; the immediate future seemed to me 
likely to intensify all the present evils by sweeping 
away the last survivals of the days before the dull 
squalor of civilization had settled down on the world. 
This was a bad look-out indeed, and, if I may mention 
myself as a personality and not as a mere type, espe 
cially so to a man of my disposition, careless of meta 
physics and religion, as well as of scientific analysis, 
but with a deep love of the earth and the life on it, 
and a passion for the history of the past of mankind. 
Think of it! Was it all to end in a counting-house on 
the top of a cinder-heap, with Podsnap's drawing-room 
In the offing, and a Whig committee dealing out cham 
pagne to the rich and margarine to the poor in such 
convenient proportions as would make all men con 
tented together, though the pleasure of the eyes was 
gone from the world, and the place of Homer was to 
be taken by Huxley . 24d 

This kind of opposition is by now very familiar, and we 
can see in it elements of Carlyle, Ruskin and Pugin, and of 
the popularization of these ideas in Dickens. There is also, 
significantly, the anti-scientific element: the Romantic prej 
udice that a mechanical civilization had been created by 
a mechanical science, and that science was attempting to 
substitute for art. One would have expected Morris to re 
member, as he elsewhere insisted, that the offered substi 
tute for art was bad art; and that it was not scientific en 
quiry (however indifferent to it Morris might personally 
be) but the organization of economic life, which had 
produced the misery and the vulgarity. Keeping this point 
aside, we pass to Morris's important new emphasis: 

So there I was in for a fine pessimistic end of life, if 
it had not somehow dawned on me that amidst all this 
filth of civilization the seeds of a great change, what 
we others call Social-Revolution, were beginning to 
germinate. . . . (This) prevented me, luckier than 

l62 CULTUBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

many others of artistic perceptions, from crystallizing 
into a mere railer against 'progress* on the one hand, 
and on the other from wasting time and energy in any 
of the numerous schemes by which the quasi-artistic 
of the middle classes hope to make art grow when it 
has no longer any root, and thus I became a practical 
Socialist. . . . Surely any one who professes to think 
that the question of art and cultivation must go be 
fore that of the knife and fork (and there are some 
who do propose that) does not understand what art 
means, or how that its roots must have a soil of a thriv 
ing and unanxious lif e. Yet it must be remembered that 
civilization has reduced the workman to such a skinny 
and pitiful existence, that he scarcely knows how to 
frame a desire for any lif e much better than that which 
he now endures perforce. It is the province of art to 
set the true ideal of a full and reasonable life before 
him, a life to which the perception and creation of 
beauty, the enjoyment of real pleasure that is, shall be 
felt to be as necessary to man as his daily bread, and 
that no man, and no set of men, can be deprived of 
this except by mere opposition, which should be re 
sisted to the utmost. 25 

The social revolution, then, was to be the answer to the 
deadlock of the 'railers against progress'. The priority of 
'cultivation* is set aside, in terms that remind one of Cob- 
bett. Yet, unlike Cobbett, Morris uses the idea of culture, 
in particular in its embodiment in art, as a positive criterion: 
'the true ideal of a full and reasonable life*. Like Cobbett, 
Morris would have nothing set as a priority over the claims 
of working men to an improvement in their conditions; but 
unlike Cobbett, who set his objective in terms of a remem 
bered society, Morris, like Blake or Raskin, sets his social 
objective in terms of the fulness of life which art especially 

Morris's principal opponent, in fact, was Arnold. The 
word 'culture*, because it was associated in his mind witih 
Arnold's conclusions, is usually roughly handled: 

In the thirty years during which I have known Oxford 


more damage has been done to art (and therefore to 

literature) by Oxford 'culture' than centuries of profes 
sors could repair for, indeed, it is irreparable. These 
coarse brutalities of light and leading' make education 
stink in the nostrils of thoughtful persons, and ... are 
more likely than is Socialism to drive some of us mad. 
... I say that to attempt to teach literature with one 
hand while it destroys history with the other is a be 
wildering proceeding on the part of 'culture'. 26 

The point of this was Morris's opposition to the 'moderniza 
tion' of Oxford: 

I wish to ask if it is too late to appeal to the mercy of 
the 'Dons' to spare the few specimens of ancient town 
architecture which they have not yet had time to de 
stroy. . . . Oxford thirty years ago, when I first knew 
it, was full of these treasures; but Oxford 'culture', 
cynically contemptuous of the knowledge which it 
does not know, and steeped to the lips in the com 
mercialism of the day, has made a clean sweep of most 
of them. 27 

As so often, a particular argument is here entangled with a 
much more general judgement. This is very typical of Mor 
ris's method, which is often no more than a kind of gen 
eralized swearing. Yet the general argument is there, when 
he troubles to control it. Oxford was for him a test-case, on 
the issue whether culture could be saved from commercial 
ism by isolating it: 

There are of the English middle class, today . . . men 
of the highest aspirations towards Art, and of the 
strongest will; men who are most deeply convinced of 
the necessity to civilization of surrounding men's lives 
with beauty; and many lesser men, thousands for what 
I know, refined and cultivated, follow them and praise 
their opinions: but both the leaders and the led are 
incapable of saving so much as half a dozen commons 
from the grasp of inexorable Commerce: they are as 
helpless in spite of their culture and their genius as if 
they were just so many overworked shoemakers: less 


lucky than King Midas, our green fields and clear wa 
ters, nay the very air we breathe, are turned not to 
gold (which might please some o us for an hour 
maybe) but to dirt; and to speak plainly we know full 

we! that under the present gospel of Capital not only 
there is no hope of bettering it, but that things grow 
worse year by year, day by day. 28 

For indeed, Morris argues, the commercial habits of the 
middle class can destroy even those things which many in 
dividual members of the middle-class value. It is this com 
mercialism which has destroyed even such a centre of al 
ternative values as Oxford: 

What is it, for instance, that has destroyed the Rouen, 
the Oxford of my elegant poetic regret? Has it per 
ished for the benefit of the people, either slowly yield 
ing to the growth of intelligent change and new happi 
ness? or has it been, as it were, thunderstricken by the 
tragedy which mostly accompanies some great new 
birth? Not so. Neither phalangstere nor dynamite has 
swept its beauty away, its destroyers have not been 
either the philanthropist or the Socialist, the coopera- 
tor or the anarchist. It has been sold, and at a cheap 
price indeed: muddled away by the greed and incom 
petence of fools who do not know what life and pleas 
ure mean, who will neither take them themselves nor 
let others have them. 29 

To the constant question of this tradition 'can the middle 
classes regenerate themselves?* Morris returned a decided 
No. The middle classes cannot or will not change the con 
sequences of industrialism; they will only try to escape 
them, in one of two ways. Either: 

Men get rich now in their struggles not to be poor, and 
because their riches shield them from suffering from 
the horrors which are a necessary accompaniment of 
the existence of rich men; e.g., the sight of slums, the 
squalor of a factory country, the yells and evil lan 
guage of drunken and brutalized poor people. 30 


This way, an energetic entry into commercialism in order 
to escape its consequences, is a kind of Moral Sinking Fund, 
which continues to be heavily subscribed. The other way 
is the way of 'minority culture*: 

Nothing made by man's hand can be indifferent: it 
must be either beautiful and elevating, or ugly and 
degrading; and those things that are without art are 
so aggressively; they wound it by their existence, and 
they are now so much in the majority that the works 
of art we are obliged to set ourselves to seek for, 
whereas the other things are the ordinary companions 
of our everyday life; so that if those who cultivate art 
intellectually were inclined never so much to wrap 
themselves in their special gifts and their high culti 
vation, and so live happily, apart from other men, and 
despising them, they could not do so: they are as it 
were living in an enemy's country; at every turn there 
is something lying in wait to offend and vex their nicer 
sense and educated eyes: they must share in the gen 
eral discomfort and I am glad of it. 31 

The cultivated were indeed 'aliens', as Arnold had called 
them, but they were helpless to prevent further damage, 
even to themselves. Forty years of publicized revival of the 
arts had shown, Morris argued, not an improvement in the 
quality of things seen, but even a deterioration: 

The world is everywhere growing uglier and more 
commonplace, in spite of the conscious and very stren 
uous efforts of a small group of people towards the 
revival of art, which are so obviously out of joint with 
the tendency of the age, that while the uncultivated 
have not even heard of them, the mass of the cultivated 
look upon them as a joke, and even that they are now 
beginning to get tired of. 32 

Art, Morris argued, in line with his tradition, depends on 
the quality of the society which produces it. There is no 
salvation in 

art for art's sake ... of (which) a school . . . does, 
in a way, theoretically at least, exist at present. Its 


watchword (is) a piece of slang that does not mean 
the harmless thing it seems to mean . . . An art culti 
vated professedly by a few, and for a few, who would 
consider it necessarya duty, if they could admit du 
tiesto despise the common herd, to hold themselves 
aloof from all that the world has been straggling for 
from the first, to guard carefully every approach to 
their palace of art ... that art at last will seem too 
delicate a thing for even the hands of the initiated to 
touch; and the initiated must at last sit still and do 
nothing to the grief of no one. 83 

The hope for art was not here, but in the belief that 

the cause of Art is the cause of the people. . . . One 
day we shall win back Art, that is to say the pleasure 
of life; win back Art again to our daily labour. 84 

This, at the end of the century, is a rejection of the special 
ization of 'Art' which was common at its beginning. But 
the terms of the rejection are in part a result of the spe 
cialization. In particular, Morris profits from Ruskin's think- 
ing about art and labour, as here: 

Nothing should be made by man's labour which is not 
worth making; or which must be made by labour de 
grading to the makers. . . . Simple as that proposition 
is . . . it is a direct challenge to the deatib to the pres 
ent system of labour in civilized countries. . . . The 
aim of art (is) to destroy the curse of labour by mak 
ing work the pleasurable satisfaction of our impulse 
towards energy, and giving to that energy hope of pro 
ducing something worth the exercise. 85 

Art had become a particular quality of labour. Delight in 
work had been widely destroyed by the machine-system of 
production, but, Morris argued, it was the system, rather 
than the machines as such, which must be blamed. 

If the necessary reasonable work be of a mechanical 
land, I must be helped to do it by a machine, not to 
cheapen my labour, but so that as little time as pos 
sible may be spent upon it. ... I know that to some 


cultivated people, people of the artistic turn of mind, 
machinery is particularly distasteful . . . (but) it is 
the allowing machines to be our masters and not our 
servants that so injures the beauty of life nowadays. In 
other words, it is the token of the terrible crime we 
have fallen into of using our control of the powers of 
Nature for the purpose of enslaving people, we care 
less meantime of how much happiness we rob their 
lives of. 36 

That Morris could feel like this is of considerable impor 
tance. He was himself a hand-craftsman, and he had a re 
spect born from experience for work of that kind. In his 
Utopian writings, the removal of machines from the proc 
ess of work is often emphasized. Yet the reaction 'Morris- 
handicrafts get rid of the machines' is as misleading as the 
reaction 'Ruskin Gothic mediaevalism*. The regressive ele 
ments are present in Morris, as they were in RusHn. These 
elements seek to compensate for the difficulties in the way 
of practical realization of certain qualities of life; and be 
cause their function is compensatory, they are often senti 
mental. Yet, although their reference is to the past, their 
concern is with the present and the future. When we stress, 
in Morris, the attachment to handicrafts, we are, in part, 
rationalizing an uneasiness generated by the scale and na 
ture of his social criticism. Morris wanted the end of the 
capitalist system, and the institution of socialism, so that 
men could decide for themselves how their work should be 
arranged, and where machinery was appropriate. It was 
obviously convenient to many of his readers, and to many 
of Buskin's readers, to construe all this as a campaign to 
end machine-production. Such a campaign could never be 
more than an affectation, but it is less compromising than 
Morris's campaign to end capitalism, which lands one di 
rectly in the heat and bitterness of political struggle. It is 
most significant that Morris should have been diluted in 
this way. The dilution stresses what are really the weaker 
parts of his work, and neglects what is really strong and 
alive. For my own part, I would willingly lose The Dream 
of John Ball and the romantic socialist songs and even News 

i68 CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

from Nowhere- in all of which the weaknesses of Morris's 
general poetry are active and disabling, if to do so were the 
price of retaining and getting people to read such smaller 
things as How we Live, and How we might Live, The Aims 
of Art, Useful Work versus Useless Toil, and A Factory as it 
might be. The change of emphasis would involve a change 
in Morris's status as a writer, but such a change is critically 
inevitable. There is more life in the lectures, where one 
feels that the whole man is engaged in the writing, than 
in any of the prose and verse romances. These seem so 
clearly the product of a fragmentary consciousness of that 
very state of rnind which Morris was always trying to ana 
lyse. Morris is a fine political writer, in the broadest sense, 
and it is on that, finally, that his reputation will rest. The 
other and larger part of his literary work bears witness only 
to the disorder which he felt so acutely. He was not a Hop 
kins to make art 'when the time seemed unpropitious'. The 
nearest figure to him, in his own century, is Cobbett: with 
the practice of visual instead of rural arts as the controlling 
sanity from which the political insights sprang. And as with 
Cobbett, we come to accept the impatience and the ritual 
swearing as the price of the vitality, which has its own 

It remains to look briefly at Morris's socialism, since it 
grew out of the tradition which we have been examining. 
He is often mentioned by modern members of the Labour 
Party, but usually in terms that suggest a very limited ac 
quaintance with his actual ideas. He is, for instance, some 
thing very different from an orthodox Fabian. Socialism, 
for him, is not merely 

substituting business-like administration in the inter 
ests of the public for the old Whig muddle of laissez- 
faire backed up by coercion. 37 

This was the socialism the utilitarians had come to, but 
Morris, always, applied to socialism the modes of judge 
ment which had been developed in opposition to utilitari 
anism. This, for example: Socialism might 

gain higher wages and shorter working hours for the 


working men themselves: industries may be worked 
by municipalities for the benefit both of producers 
and consumers. Working-people's houses may be im 
proved, and their management taken out of the hands 
of commercial speculators. In all this I freely admit a 
great gain, and am glad to see schemes tried which 
would lead to it. But great as the gain would be, the 
ultimate good of it . . . would, I think, depend on how 
such reforms were done; in what spirit; or rather what 
else was being done, while these were going on. . . , 38 

This is a familiar kind of argument, from the tradition, and 
Morris confirms it in its usual terms: 

The great mass of what most non-socialists at least 
consider at present to be socialism, seems to me noth 
ing more than a machinery of socialism, which I think 
it probable that socialism must use in its militant con 
dition; and which I think it may use for some time 
after it is practically established; but does not seem to 
me to be of its essence. 39 

Yet the result of this point of view is not modification of 
the Socialist idea, but its emphasis. Morris wonders 

whether, in short, the tremendous organization of civi 
lized commercial society is not playing the cat and 
mouse game with us socialists. Whether the Society 
of Inequality might not accept the quasi-socialist ma 
chinery above mentioned, and work it for the purpose 
of upholding that society in a somewhat shorn condi 
tion, maybe, but a safe one. . . . The workers better 
treated, better organized, helping to govern them 
selves, but with no more pretence to equality with the 
rich, nor any more hope for it than they have now. 40 

This insight into what has been perhaps the actual course 
of events since his death is a measure of Morris's quality 
as a political thinker. Yet it is no more than an application, 
under new circumstances, of the kind of appraisal which 
the century's thinking about the meanings of culture had 
made available. The arts defined a quality of living which it 


was the whole purpose o political change to make possible: 

I hope we know assuredly that the arts we have met 
together to further are necessary to the life of man, 
if the progress of civilization is not to be as causeless 
as the turning of a wheel that makes nothing. 41 

Socialist change was the means to a recovery of purpose. 
The limitation of such change to 'machinery* would only 
be possible 

on 'the grounds that the working people have ceased 
to desire real socialism and are contented with some 
outside show of it joined to an increase in prosperity 
enough to satisfy the cravings of men who do not know 
what the pleasures of lif e might be if they treated their 
own capacities and the resources of nature reasonably 
with the intention and expectation of being happy. 42 

The business of a socialist party is not only to organize po 
litical and economic change. It is, more vitally, to foster and 
extend a real socialist consciousness, among working men, 
so that finally 

they understand themselves to be face to face with 
false society, themselves the only possible elements of 
true society. 43 

We realize the tradition behind Morris even as, in this re 
markable way, he gives a radically new application to its 
ideas. For Morris is here announcing the extension of the 
tradition into our own century, and setting the stage for its 
continuing controversy. 




THE pivotal figure of the tradition which has been exam 
ined, and which we shall see continued and extended to 
our own day, is William Morris. In the middle of the twen 
tieth century Morris remains a contemporary thinker, for 
the directions which he indicated have become part of a 
general social movement. Yet he belongs, essentially, with 
the great Victorian rebels, sharing with them an energy, 
an expansion, a willingness to generalize which marks Mm, 
from our own period of critical specialism, as an historic 
figure. The life went out of that kind of general swearing 
and homily soon after Morris's death, and we look at it now 
post-mortem with mixed feelings of respect and suspicion. 
It is almost true that there are no periods in thought; at 
least, within a given form of society. But if there are, the 
chances of reign and century deal hardly with them. The 
temper which the adjective Victorian is useful to describe 
is virtually finished in the i88os; the new men who appear 
in that decade, and who have left their mark, are recogniz 
ably different in tone. To the young Englishman in the 
19208, this break was the emergence of the modem spirit, 
and so we have tended to go on thinking. But now, from 
the 19505, the bearings look different. The break comes no 
longer in the generation of Butler, Shaw, Wilde, who are 
already period figures. For us, our contemporaries, our 
moods, appear in effect after the war of 19141918. D. H. 
Lawrence is a contemporary, in mood, in a way that Butler 
and Shaw are clearly not. As a result, we tend to look at 
the period 1880-1914 as a Mud of interregnum- It is not 
the period of the masters, of Coleridge or of George Eliot. 
Nor yet is it the period of our contemporaries, of writers 
who address themselves, in our kind of language, to the 
common problems that we recognize. I shall then treat the 
writers of that period who have affected our thinking about 
culture, in a brief, separate section. If they were neglected 
altogether, certain important links would be missing. Yet 


we shall not find in them, except perhaps in Hulme, any 
thing very new: a working-out, rather, of unfinished lines; 
a tentative redirection. Such work requires notice, but sug 
gests brevity. 

i. W. H. Mallock 

Mallock's The New Republic is as good a starting point 
for this period as could be found: not so much as a fore 
taste of what is to come but as a valediction to the period 
we are leaving. The evident if fragile brilliance of The New 
Republic has commanded for Mallock less readers than one 
might reasonably expect. His later work, which gains in 
substance as it loses in brilliance, has been almost wholly 

The plan of The New Republic, which was published in 
1877 when Mallock was twenty-eight, is the bringing to 
gether in a weekend house-party of a number of the figures 
we have been discussing, together with the other masters 
of Mallock's twenties. Matthew Arnold is there as Mr Luke, 
RusJdn as Mr Herbert, Pater as Mr Rose, Jowett as Dr 
Jenkinson, together with figures representing Herbert Spen 
cer, W. K. Clifford, Violet Fane, and others who were more 
important to Mallock than they can now be to us. Their 
discussion of an ideal republic is made the occasion for a 
number of very brilliant parodies; the book has about the 
weight, in terms of ideas, of Aldous Huxley's early novels. 
It is interesting to see the relative respect and disrespect 
with which Mallock treats his figures: Pater, for instance, 
is savaged in a way that Huxley has made familiar ('his 
two topics are self-indulgence and art*); Arnold is little 
more than a dandy and a bore; Ruskin, though shown as 
theatrical, is still evidently respected. These are the uses of 
the book as a document: the tradition seen at a certain 
point in time through the eyes of an intelligent critic. 

The second chapter of the third book is particularly use 
ful. For example: 

*You mean then,' said Miss Merton, 'that a man of 
the highest culture is a sort of emotional bon mvant? 


'That surely is hardly a fair way* began Laurence. 

'Excuse me, my dear Laurence/ broke in Mr Luke 
in his most magnificent of manners, 'it is perfectly fair 
it is admirably fair. Emotional bon vivantl* he ex 
claimed. 'I thank Miss Merton for teaching me that 
wordl for it may remind us all/ Mr Luke continued, 
drawing out his words slowly, as if he liked the taste 
of them, liow near our view of the matter is to that of 
a certain Galilean peasant of whom Miss Merton has 
perhaps heard who described the highest culture by 
just the same metaphor, as a hunger and a thirst after 
righteousness. Our notion of it differs only from his, 
from the Zeitgeist having made it somewhat wider/ 1 

The irony of 'just the same metaphor* retains its relevance 
even if we wish to rescue Arnold from Mr Luke. The sub 
sequent direction of the argument about culture is towards 
Otho Laurence's (the host's) definition- 
It is with the life about us that all our concern lies; 
and culture's double end is simply this to make us 
appreciate that life, and to make that life worth ap 
preciating/ 2 

and then its dilution into 

'the aim of culture is to make us better company as 
men and women of the world/ 3 

It is on this weakened preoccupation that the wrath of Mr 
Herbert's theatrical sermon descends: 

'Will art, will painting, will poetry be any comfort to 
you? You have said that these were magic mirrors 
which reflected back your life for you. Well-will they 
be any better than the glass mirrors in your drawing- 
rooms, if they have nothing but the same listless orgy 
to reflect? . . . What, then, shall you do to be saved? 
Rend your hearts, 1 say, and do not mend your gar 
ments. . . / 4 

This is as far as the house-party gets, except for a discrimi 
nating renewal of invitations. 

1/6 CULTtmE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

Mallock is not concerned, in The New Republic, to com 
mit himself, but his later work shows him as perhaps the 

most able conservative thinker of the last eighty years. The 
mood of the later books is sceptical and critical, and Mal 
lock is not to be recommended to socialists, or even demo 
crats, who have merely received a doctrine and want to 
keep it. The Limits of Pure Democracy (1917) anticipates, 
and is better written than, those many books presenting a 
similar thesis which have appeared since 1945. The politi 
cal and economic arguments must be referred elsewhere, 
but the result, in social thinking, is Mallock's dictum: 

Only through oligarchy does civilized democracy know 
itself.* 5 

In the second chapter of Book VII, Mallock works this idea 
out in terms of culture: 

In each of the three lives that of knowledge, that of 
aesthetic appreciation and that of religion on which 
the quality of social intercourse in a civilized country 
depends, the activities of the few play a part of such 

supreme importance that were their activities ab 
sent the mass of the citizens, whatever their material 
wealth, would be unlettered, superstitious, and half- 
brutal barbarians, as many newly enriched men on the 
outskirts of civilization actually are today. 6 

It is the truth of democratic theory that 

whatever the few may add to the possible things of 
civilization, the many must, according to their several 
talents, share them. 7 

But there will be nothing to share if the oligarchy (or mi 
nority) is not recognized and maintained: 

the many can prosper only through the participation 
in benefits which, in the way alike of material comfort, 
opportunity, culture and social freedom, would be pos 
sible for no one unless the many submitted themselves 
to the influence or authority of the supercapable few. 8 


Two other points from The Limits of Pure Democracy 
may be briefly noted: Mallock's discussion of the idea of 
Equality of Opportunity, in terms of wages and of educa 
tion. He says of the idea in general: 

The demand for equality of opportunity may, indeed, 
wear on the surface of it certain revolutionary aspects; 
but it is in reality it is in its very nature a symptom 
of moderation, or rather of an unintended conserva 
tism, of which the masses of normal men cannot, if 
they would, divest themselves. The very meaning of 
the word 'opportunity* a word saturated as it is with 
implications is enough in itself to show this. For if the 
ideal demand of pure democracy were realized, and 
the social conditions of all men made equal by force 
of law, there would be no such thing as opportunity 
equal or unequal, for anybody. . . . The desire for 
equality of opportunity the desire for the right to rise 
in so far as it is really experienced by the morally 
typical man of all ages and nations, is a desire that 
everybody (he himself, as included in 'everybody', be 
ing a prominent figure in his thoughts) snail have an 
opportunity of achieving by his own talents, if he can, 
some position or condition which is not equal, but 
which is, on the contrary, superior to any position or 
condition which is achievable by the talents of all. 9 

He then argues that, as applied to wage negotiations, the 
advocates of equality of opportunity invariably in practice 
seek, not absolute equality, but relative equality: that is to 
say, wages graduated in proportion to effort, skill, length of 
training, etc., with an insistence on the 'maintenance of their 
proper graduation'. What is demanded (if Mallock's argu 
ment may be paraphrased) is an equal opportunity to be 
come unequal. It is so, also, he argues, in the advocacy of 
popular education; what is emphasized is giving a chance 
to gifted but poor children, so that they may better them 
selves. The idea assumes 

the existence of some average mass, whose capacities 
and whose wages represent those normal lots, by their 

178 CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

upward distance from which those ampler lots are 
measured, which opportunity offers to talents above 
the average. 10 

A large part of democratic sentiment, therefore, is in Mai- 
lock's view merely a demand for the right to become a mem 
ber of the oligarchy. But when this demand is, by the the 
ory of pure democracy, granted to every member of society, 
there can only be disillusion. Democratic theory is a senti 
mental reassurance that the thing can be done; but the 
facts of society, and of production in all its aspects, will de 
mand major inequalities, corresponding to differences of ef 
fort and ability, and these will be assessed on a basis of 
fact rather than on that self -estimate which democratic the 
ory, in its encouragement of everyone, seems to support 
The 'masses* can only, in following this path, be deluded 
or disillusioned. It is better, then, to recognize that the gen 
eral welfare depends on exceptional ability and effort, which 
have to be stimulated and maintained, and to recognize, 
in consequence, that oligarchy is not the opposite of de 
mocracy, but its necessary complement. 

The confusion between government and social contribu 
tion, in this argument, is comparatively easy to spot. But 
the 'aristocracy of talent', which Carlyle had first defined, 
was a popular notion in this period, as may be seen in Shaw 
and Wells. We can see now its inevitable confusion with 
arbitrary inequalities, and we limit Mallock accordingly. 
Yet the democratic idea needed its sceptics, and Mallock, 
always, is shrewd enough to be attended to. 

n. The 'New Aesthetics' 

If the 'eighties and 'nineties in England had really pro 
duced a new aesthetics, it might have stood greatly to their 
credit. But what was called, from Pater in the late 'sixties, 
the new doctrine of 'art for art's sake', was really little more 
than a restatement of an attitude which properly belongs 
to the first generations of the Romantics. The most extreme 
form of this restatement is to be found in Whistler, but in 
Pater and Wilde, who have been associated with Whistler's 


position, the continuity from the earlier tradition is quite 
evident. We need trace only the point at which this kind 
of reaffirmation swung over, in certain extreme statements, 
to something approaching its negation. 

What we sometimes suppose to be a change in ideas is 
perhaps properly identified as a change-a change for the 
worse-in prose. This is particularly evident in the case of 
Pater, whose ideas, when visible through the gauze, are the 
ideas of Wordsworth, of Shelley and of Arnold. The con 
clusion of the essay on Wordsworth is the obvious illustra 
tion of this. Pater writes: 

That the end of life is not action but contemplation 
being as distinct from doing & certain disposition of 
the mind; is, in some shape or other, the principle of 
all the higher morality. In poetry, in art, if you enter 
into their true spirit at all, you touch this principle, 
in a measure: these, by their very sterility, are a type 
of beholding for the mere joy of beholding. To treat 
life in the spirit of art, is to make life a thing in which 
means and ends are identified: to encourage such treat 
ment, the true moral significance of art and poetry. 
. . . Not to teach lessons, or enforce rules, or even 
to stimulate us to noble ends; but to withdraw the 
thoughts for a little while from the mere machinery 
of life, to fix them, with appropriate emotions, on the 
spectacle of those great facts in man's existence which 
no machinery affects. ... To witness this spectacle 
with appropriate emotions is the aim of all culture. 1 

The elements of continuity in this statement are clear: the 
distinction between T>eing* and 'doingf , tie criticism of 'mere 
machinery', the description of this 'true moral significance 
of art and poetry* as 'culture* tihds to the very words is no 
more than a summing-up of the long preceding tradition. 
And it is doubtful whether Pater believed that he was say 
ing anything different when he wrote the notorious sentence 
in the Conclusion (1868) to The Renaissance; 

Of this wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of 
beauty, the love of art for art's sake, has most; for art 

l8o CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

comes to you professing frankly to give nothing but 
the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and 
simply for those moments' sake. 2 

For Pater is here saying no more than Mill said when he 
described poetry as 'a culture of the feelings'. If we dis 
approve the attitude in Pater, we must similarly disapprove 
it in MillI suggested, in my discussion of Mill, its inade 
quacy. Yet Mill is approvingly quoted, while Pater is com 
monly dismissed in a cloud of roses and stars. The composi 
tion of this curious cloud is indeed the whole point. It is 
not Pater's doctrine that is commonly rejected; indeed, an 
austere technician like I. A. Richards seems, in the ques 
tion of doctrine, to be very close to Pater, yet the reaction 
is quite different. What we reject in Pater is his instances, 
and|he substance of these instances is his style at its worst. 
It has been to us, we say, but as the sound of lyres and 
flutes; and when we repeat these words, we do not hear any 
particular instruments. To recommend the saving power of 
sensibility is, always, to invite attention to one's instances, 
even if these He only in the language of the recommenda 
tion. Pater, as a teacher, is enrolled in the Grand Old Cause, 
and the rejection of his teaching implies, properly, a rejec 
tion of the whole Romantic position from Keats to Arnold. 
The first emphasis of culture was an emphasis of the func 
tion of certain kinds of thought and feeling in the whole 
life of man: a function properly described as moral. Pater 
argues this function within the major tradition; in his gen 
eral statements he is at one with his peers. Yet repeatedly, 
in his instances, he embodies the negative element which 
is always latent in this position: the reduction of a whole 
process, characterized by its movement and its interactions, 
to a fragmentary, isolated product Pater's image of the 
contemplating being, who has struggled 'with those forms 
till its secret is won from each, and then lets each fall back 
into its place, in the supreme, artistic view of life'. 3 His 
apotheosis of La Gioconda is typical of this image, but his 
relation to art is such that he seems genuinely unable to 
distinguish between the condition of a work of art a made 
thing, containing within itself an achieved stillness and the 


condition of any life, which is not made but making, and 

which can only in phantasy be detached from a continuous 
process and a whole condition. Pater's kind of sensibility 
thus reduces a general and active proposition to what is, 
in effect, its negation. Art for art's sake is a reasonable 
maxim for the artist, when creating, and for the spectator 
when the work is being communicated; at such times, it is 
no more than a definition of attention. The negative ele 
ment is the phantasyusually explicable that a man can 
himself become, can confuse himself with, a made work. 
The phantasy is common enough for Pater to be compre 
hended; it is indeed a general distortion of the emphasis 
on culture, which otherwise Pater clearly continues and 

Whistler is Pater vulgarized, yet the vulgarity is in a 
way a gain. Unlike Pater, he rejects the received thesis, in 
particular the thesis of Ruskin. In opposition to the belief 
that in the past, and especially in the Middle Ages, there 
was a greater general regard for art and a fuller integration 
of it with the common life, Whistler asserted: 

Listen! There never was an artistic period. There never 
was an art-loving nation. ... If Art be rare today, it 
was seldom heretofore. It is false, this teaching of de 
cay. . . . False again, the fabled link between the 
grandeur of Art and the glories and virtues of the State, 
for Art feeds not upon nations, and peoples may be 
wiped from the face of the earth, but Art is. 4 

This is only Pater's practical separation of art and Me (a 
separation resting on their confusion, and on the consequent 
reduction of life to the condition of art) extended and 
jumped up into a kind of theory, which is then entirely 
opposed to the tradition which Pater in his general state 
ments had continued, listen!* says Whistler, and we have 
listened. We agree that *this teaching of decay' is at any rate 
partly false; we agree also with his onslaught on 'Taste': 

Taste' has long been confounded with capacity, and 
accepted as sufficient qualification for the utterance of 
judgment. . . . Art is joyously received as a matter of 


opinion; and that it should be based upon laws as rigid 
and defined as those of the . . . sciences, is a supposi 
tion no longer to be tolerated by modern cultivation. 
. . . The millennium of Taste sets in. 5 

It is no more than Wordsworth was saying, eighty years 

earlier, but it is relevant, as is the observation 

Art is upon the Town! ... to be coaxed into com 
pany, as a proof of culture and refinement. 6 

These are reasonable criticisms of a fashionable ethos, but 
Whistler is at once too shallow and too confused to make 
anything further of them. For example, a statement like the 
following is useful: 

Humanity takes the place of Art, and God's creations 
are excused by their usefulness. Beauty is confounded 
with virtue, and, before a work of art, it is asked: 
'What good shall it do?' 7 

Newman had drawn attention to a similar confusion be 
tween *beauty' and virtue, and to the deficiencies of 'Taste*, 
but what we have now to notice in Whistler is an accept 
ance of the simple converse: art takes the place of human 
ity, and virtue is not merely distinguished from beauty, but 
made irrelevant. There are times, in reading Pater, when 
one sees how this position was prepared, and it is in Pater's 
accents that Whistler makes his only positive point: 

We have then but to wait until with the mark of the 
gods upon him there come among us again the chosen 
who shall continue what has gone before. Satisfied 
that, even were he never to appear, the story of the 
beautiful is already complete hewn in the marbles of 
the Parthenon and broidered, with the birds, upon 
the fan of Hokusai at the foot of Fusi-Yama. 8 

The accents of this cannot disguise its servility: an essential 
servility which made possible Whistler's spurts of arrogance. 
This degree of abstraction of Art and 'the beautiful', this 
reduction of man to the status of a humble spectator, com 
pose together a lifeless caricature yet bearing a carica- 


tare's relations to its original of the positive affirmations of 
Shelley or of Keats. In Whistler, the Romantic trap has 
been sprung. 

Oscar Wilde, by comparison, is a traditional Igure. His 
immediate reply to Whistler's account of the artist is the 
sober (if in vocabulary self-conscious) 

an artist is not an isolated fact, he is the resultant of a 
certain milieu and a certain entourage. 9 

In The Soul of Man under Socialism, he repeats a familiar 
point from Arnold and Pater: 

The true perfection of man lies, not in what man has, 
but in what man is. 10 

The right activity of man, he argues elsewhere, is 

not doing, but being, and not being merely, but be 
coming. 11 

The 'true ideal' of man is 'self-culture'; and culture is made 

possible by a 'transmission of racial experience', which 'the 
critical spirit alone . . . (makes) perfect'. 12 

The 'new aesthetics', as expounded by Wilde, had three 
principles: first, that 'art never expresses anything but it 
self; second, that 'all bad art comes from returning to Life 
and Nature, and elevating them into ideals'; third, that 'Life 
imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life'. 13 In conse 
quence, Wilde finds, 

all art is immoral . . .for emotion for the sate of emo 
tion is the aim of art, and emotion for the sake of ac 
tion is the aim of life, and of that practical organiza 
tion of life that we call society. Society, which is the 
beginning and basis of morals, exists simply for the 
concentration of human energy. . . . Society often for 
gives the criminal; it never forgives the dreamer. . . . 
While in the opinion of society, Contemplation is the 
gravest sin of which any citizen can be guilty, in the 
opinion of the highest culture it is the proper occupa 
tion of man. 14 

184 CULTUBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

Wilde stands in this with Pater and Arnold, but Ms atti 
tudes to society are, though consistent with this, unex 
pected. For example: 

Civilization requires slaves. . . . Unless there are 
slaves to do the ugly, horrible, uninteresting work, cul 
ture and contemplation become almost impossible. 
Human slavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralizing. 
On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, 
the future of the world depends. ... At present ma 
chinery competes against man. Under proper condi 
tions machinery will serve man. . . . The machines 
will be the new slaves. 15 

This is a good example of the Wildean paradox, no longer 

merely verbal, but embodying a real adjustment and ad 
vance in feeling. The same may be said of his claims for 


The chief advantage that would result from the es 
tablishment of Socialism is, undoubtedly, the fact that 
Socialism would relieve us from that sordid necessity 
of living for others which, in the present condition of 
things, presses so hardly upon almost everybody. 16 

This might appear modish, but it is based on a real per 

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is ask 
ing others to live as one wishes to live. 17 

In its context, this is a valuable criticism of a dominative 
mood which is characteristic alike of Arnold's Philistines 
and of some of their socialist opponents. In turning the 
phrases of didactic respectability, Wilde often reached a 
feeling that is in fact more generally humane: 

The virtues of the poor may be readily admitted, and 
are much to be regretted. . . . The best amongst the 
poor are never grateful. They are ungrateful, discon 
tented, disobedient, and rebellious. They are quite 
right to be so. 18 


Art is not an argument against social change, but its cor 

Socialism will . . . restore society to its proper condi 
tion of a thoroughly healthy organism, and ensure the 
material well-being of each member of the commu 
nity. It will, in fact, give Life its proper basis and its 
proper environment. But for the full development of 
Life to its highest mode of perfection, something more 
is needed. What is needed is Individualism. 19 

Art, as 'the most intense form of individualism that the 
world has known*, is an epitome of the life that social 
change will make generally possible. But it is not merely to 
be contrasted with 'materialism'; 

Men . . . rage against Materialism, as they call it, for 
getting that there has been no material improvement 
that has not spiritualized the world. 20 

Thus, while the 'new aesthetics* rests essentially on a denial 
of society, and Wilde in the end is no exception, yet, in 
Wilde, the pursuit of an isolated aesthetic pleasure is ac 
companied by a general humanity which is a real ground 
for respect. If he remains the fastidious spectator of a com 
mon life, he is yet intelligent enough to realize that the 
basis of cultivated individual living will have to be redrawn 
on less degrading general terms. He, rather than Pater, is 
the first of the minor inheritors of Arnold, whose general 
position he repeats, without the Victorian ballast which is 
Arnold's moral stability, but with much the same irony 
that of the desperate, chiding spectator narrowed and 
hardened to a sharper and more conscious wit. In being 
the prodigal of a most respectable tradition, Wilde showed, 
perhaps, what the tradition had still to learn. 

m. George Gissing 

If the difficulty of obtaining recent editions of his work 
is any guide, Gissing is now generally neglected, although 
he holds his place in the text-books. Yet if The Way of M 
Flesh, Tono Bungay, or The Man of Property can still be 


usefully read, so, without question, can Gissing's Neto Grub 
Street or The Nether World. The interest of Gissing in the 
present context lies in two aspects of his work: his analysis 
of literature as a trade, which makes New Grub Street a 
minor classic; and his social observations and attitudes, in 
such novels as The Nether World and Demos, which pro 
vide evidence of a significant and continuing process. The 
interest of the first point is enhanced by its date: Gissing 
wrote New Grub Street in 1891, at the crucial time for an 
observation of the effects on literature of the new journal 
ism and the new kind of market. These effects are drama 
tized in the novel in the contrast between the novelist Rear- 
don, who fails and dies, and Jasper Milvain, the 'new* kind 
of writer. Milvain's exposition is characteristic: 

'Just understand the difference between a man like 
Reardon and a man like me. He is the old type of un 
practical artist; I am the literary man of 1882. He 
won't make concessions, or, rather, he can't make 
them; he can't supply the market. . . . Literature 
nowadays is a trade. Putting aside men of genius, who 
may succeed by mere cosmic force, your successful 
man of letters is your skilful tradesman. He thinks first 
and foremost of the markets; when one land of goods 
begins to go off slacldy, he is ready with something 
new and appetizing. He knows perfectly all the pos 
sible sources of income. Whatever he has to sell he'll 
get payment for it from all sorts of various quarters. 
. . . Reardon can't do that kind of thing; he's behind 
his age; lie sells a manuscript as if he lived in Sam 
Johnson's Grub Street. But our Grub Street of today is 
quite a different place: it is supplied with telegraphic 
communication, it knows what literary fare is in de 
mand in every part of the world, its inhabitants are 
men of business, however seedy/ 1 

A now familiar case has hardly ever been better put. And 
Gissing sees to it that these observations by Milvain, at the 
outset of his career, are amply justified by the action. At 
the end of the book, Milvain lies back 'in dreamy bliss*, 
married to Reardon's widow, editor of The Current, and 


having written a respectful notice of The Novels of Edwin 

If Milvain is one portent, the entrepreneur Whelpdale is 
another. Having played with the idea of 'Novel-writing 
taught in ten lessons', he finds his true destiny in 'one of the 
most notable projects of modem times': 

"Let me explain my principle. I would have the paper 
address itself to the quarter-educated; that is to say, 
the great new generation that is being turned out by 
the Board schools, the young men and women who 
can just read, but are incapable of sustained attention. 
People of this kind want something to occupy them 
in trains and on Abuses and trams. As a rule they care 
for no newspapers except the Sunday ones; what they 
want is the lightest and frothiest of chit-chatty infor 
mationbits of stories, bits of description, bits of scan 
dal, bits of jokes, bits of statistics, bits of foolery. . . . 
No article in the paper is to measure more than two 
inches in length, and every inch must be broken into 
at least two paragraphs.* 2 

The project materializes; the periodical Chat is renamed 
Chit-Chat, and so transformed that 

in a month's time all England was ringing with the 
fame of this noble new development of journalism. 3 

Gissing is writing, of course, after Tit-Bits, if only by a few 
years, but his estimate of attitudes, which are less easily 
recorded than methods, is at once interesting and convinc 
ing. The exploration of detail at the various levels of New 
Grub Street, which reaches as far as the Reading Room 
of the British Museum, carries a general conviction. The 
book is not likely to be read by any kind of writer, now, 
without a number of wry recognitions. And it is so repre 
sentative and so thorough that it is extraordinary that it 
should not be more generally read. 

The figure of Reardon, and in a lesser degree that of 
Harold Biffen, author of the realistic novel Mr Bailey, 
Grocer, are evidently, within the limits of such correspond 
ences, related to Gissing himself. The achievement of a de- 

l88 CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

gree of irony towards Biffen, as part of the relatively ma 
ture general tone of the novel, marks indeed an important 
stage in Gissing's development. His novels after 1891 (he 
had remarried in 1890) are perhaps better, hut in many 
ways less interesting, than his work in the 'eighties, as a 
very young man, when the pressure on him was at its most 
severe. Demos (1886) and The Nether World (1889) are 
not great or even very good novels; but they have con 
siderable interest from the fact that they stand in the direct 
line of succession from the 'industrial novels' of the 18403. 
It is interesting to see what has happened to the structure 
of feeling there indicated with the passing of forty years. 
One's first reaction is that the essential structure has not 
changed at all. If Gissing is less compassionately observant 
than Mrs Gaskell, less overtly polemical than Kingsley, still 
The Nether World and Demos would be sympathetically 
endorsed by either of them, or by their typical readers. Yet 
Gissing does introduce an important new element, and one 
that remains significant. He has often been called *the 
spokesman of despair', and this is true in both meanings of 
the phrase. Like Kingsley and Mrs Gaskell, he writes to 
describe the true conditions of the poor, and to protest 

against those brute forces of society which fill with 
wreck the abysses of the nether world. 4 

Yet he is also the spokesman of another kind of despair: the 
despair born of social and political disillusion. In this he is 
a figure exactly like Orwell in our own day, and for much 
the same reasons. Whether one calls this honesty or not 
will depend on experience. 

The Nether World, though marked by this latter ele 
ment, is primarily a simple descriptive novel centred on two 
characters, Sidney Korkwood and Jane Snowdon, who are 
part of the ideal mode of earlier novels of this type: 

In each life little for congratulation. He with the am 
bitions of his youth frustrated; neither an artist, nor 
a leader of men in the battle for justice. She, no saviour 
of society by the force of a superb example; no daugh 
ter of the people, holding wealth in trust for the 


people's needs. Yet to both was their work given. Un 
marked, unencouraged save by their love of upright 
ness and mercy, they stood by the side of those more 
hapless, brought some comfort to hearts less coura 
geous than their own. Where they abode it was not all 
dark. 5 

This is, of course, a Victorian solution; a dedication to char 
ity, shrunk to an almost hidden scale, within an essential 

In Workers in the Dawn (1880) Gissing had been an 
evident radical, but the sentimentality of the title indicates 
the precariousness of the attachment. He came to be dis 
illusioned, but the process of this, as one follows it in the 
novels, is less a discovery of reality than a document of a 
particular category of feeling, which we can call 'negative 
identification'. Gissing himself puts the best description of 
this into the mouth of one of the predecessors of Reardon, 
in the novel The Unclassed (1884) : 

1 often amuse myself with taking to pieces my former 
self. I was not a conscious hypocrite in those days of 
violent radicalism, working-manVclub lecturing, and 
the like; the fault was that I understood myself as yet 
so imperfectly. That zeal on behalf of the suffering 
masses was nothing more nor less than disguised zeal 
on behalf of my own starved passions. I was poor and 
desperate, life had no pleasures, the future seemed 
hopeless, yet I was overflowing with vehement desires, 
every nerve in me was a hunger which cried to be ap 
peased. ... I identified myself with the poor and ig 
norant; I did not make their cause my own, but my 
own cause theirs.' 6 

This is the negative identification which has been responsi 
ble for a great deal of adolescent socialism and radicalism, 
in particular in the adolescent who is breaking away from 
(or, as in Gissing's personal history, has fallen foul of) the 
social standards of his own class. The rebel (or, as in Gis 
sing, the outcast he was sent down from his college at 
Manchester on an issue of personal conduct) finds availa- 


ble to brm an apparent cause, on behalf of the outcast of 
society, in a mood of rebellion. He identifies himself with 
this, often passionately. But the identification will involve 
an actual relationship, and, at this stage, the rebel faces 
his new crisis. It is not only that he will normally be re 
luctant to accept the discipline of the cause; it is also, and 
more essentially, that the outcast class, whom he has 
thought of as noble (outcast = himself = noble) are in 
fact nothing of the kind, but are very mixed in character, 
containing very good and very bad, and in any case living 
in ways that differ from his own. I do not say that it is 
not then possible for him to go on; there have been some 
useful rebels who began in this way. But clearly in the or 
dinary case there will be disillusion. The cause will not be 
precisely his cause; the oppressed will have intentions and 
attachments and faults of their own. The rebel will react 
within his own terms: either violently these people are a 
menace 'the brute domination of the quarter-educated 
mob'; or soberly these people cannot be helped reform is 
useless, we need a deep, underlying change. Or else (as 
has happened in our own generation, with a transfer of 
identification from the working masses, as in the 'thirties, to 
the oppressed colonial populations, as now) he will find a 
new cause. I do not seek to minimize the difficulties of such 
men, but I would insist that their accounts of their progress 
form documents, not of a discovered reality, but of their 
own emotional pressures and recoils. Gissing found the 
London poor repulsive, in the mass; his descriptions have 
all the generalizing squalor of a Dickens or an Orwell. There 
are two points here. First, it does not come as news to any 
one bom into a poor family that the poor are not beautiful, 
or that a number of them are lying, shiftless and their own 
worst enemies. Within an actual social experience, these 
things can be accepted and recognized; we are dealing 
after all with actual people under severe pressure. A man 
like Gorki can record the faults of the poor (in his Auto 
biography and elsewhere) with an unfailing and quite un 
sentimental alertness. But a Gorki would not suppose that 
this was an argument against change, or a reason for dis 
satisfaction with the popular cause. He was never subject 


to that kind of illusion because that was not the material 
of Ms attachment, which grew within a whole reality. Sec 
ond, the faults of the poor, as they are seen from within a 
whole situation, are different more individualized, and re 
lated to different standards from those seen by the rebel 
whose identification is merely negative. Gissing sees real 
faults, but generalizes them his use of an abstract figure 
like Demos makes this process clear. He sees also what to 
him are faults, but what, objectively, are no more than dif 
ferences. A good local example of this occurs in Dewos, 
where the shiftless 'Any speaks, and receives Gissing's 

*A clerk's, of course.' 

He pronounced the word 'clerk' as it is spelt; it made 
him seem yet more ignoble. 7 

This example is to be recommended to Mr Russell Kirk, a 
modern American conservative who, describing Gissing as 
a 'proletarian novelist', finds in Gissing's discovery of the 
ignobility of the poor a Conservative witness. 8 What Gis 
sing is here discovering, of course and an American is well 
placed to appreciate it is a trivial difference of speech 
habit which only his own ambiguous emotion permits him 
to interpret as Ignoble'. There is a good deal of this in Gis 
sing. There is some wonderful nonsense, also in Demos, 9 
about the final distinction between a lady and an upstart 
being the way she closes her lips. Absurd local examples 
can be confirmed in Gissing's whole treatment. The general 
compassion is tempered by a different emotion: the desire 
of the outcast from another class, who in material circum 
stances is not to be distinguished from the amorphous ig 
noble poor, to emphasize all the differences that are pos 
sible, and to insist that they are real and important the 
attitude to working-class speech (a thing in itself not at all 
uniform) is characteristic of this. Anyone now in Gissing's 
position, or in one resembling it, can gain from a critical 
reading of these social novels, in their exposure of a num 
ber of prejudices and false positions, towards which this 
situation by its own pressures urges them. 
It is better that a man like Gissing should write Demos 

iga CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

or The Nether World than that lie should write Workers 
in the Dawn. Nothing is to be gained from a simple nega 
tive identification, as in the latter, whereas its breakdown 
can be instructive. And it is breakdown that we must stress. 
We do not learn from Demos that social reform is hopeless; 
we learn about Gissing's prejudices and difficulties. The 
case he sets himself to prove is instructive: that a socialist 
working man, Richard Mutimer, on inheriting a fortune by 
what amounts to an accident, will inevitably deteriorate 
personaEy, and will end by diluting his principles. This does 
not surprise me, but it is interesting that Gissing thought 
this an analogue of social reform the book is sub-titled A 
Story of English Socialism. Mutimer's destiny is always 
predictable, down to the point where, poor again, and seek 
ing only to serve the working people, he is, in part through 
his own carelessness, in part through real error, stoned to 
death by those whom he sought to help. We do not need 
to ask whose martyrdom this is, and in terms of the struc 
ture of feeling we return it to Felix Holt: if you get in 
volved, you get into trouble. 

There remains, finally, a more general line to be drawn. 
After New Grub Street f Gissing returns to his proper study, 
that of the condition of exile and loneliness; but both before 
and after the change there is a significant pattern: the dis 
illusion with social reform is transmuted to an attachment 
to art. It is so in Waymark, who had described the nega 
tive identification in The Unclassed. It is so in Demos, 
where it is embodied in the figure of Stella, the wife of a 
literary socialist', Westlake, who has points of relation to 
William Morris (*the man who wrote "Daphne"!* 10 ). The 
description in this latter instance will serve generally: 

there is a work in the cause of humanity other than 
that which goes on so clamorously in lecture-halls and 
at street-corners . . . the work of those whose soul is 
taken captive of loveliness, who pursue the spiritual 
ideal apart from the world's tumult. 11 

The relation of this to the 'new aesthetics' is clear enough, 
and Westlake if he had really been Morris would have had 
something relevant to say about it. But the attachment, ex- 


cept in its resting on a false, because partial, antithesis, is 
certainly to be respected. In its extension for it is now 'the 
world's tumult* is mediated that is always crucial Gissing 
reverts to an early strand in the development of the idea 
of culture: to rural values, the old order uncorrupted by 
commercialism, the distrust of industry and science (the 
latter 'the remorseless enemy of manMnd'). Hubert El- 
don, the squire, saves the beautiful Wanley valley from 
the coarse, industry-spreading Socialist, Richard Mutimer. 
Within this old order, guaranteed by the Englishman's love 
of 'Common Sense . . . that Uncommon Sense*, and Ms dis 
trust of abstractions, virtue can reside. It is a matter of 
opinion, I suppose, whether one finds this a convincing 
peroration, or, in the world's tumult, the desperate ration 
alization of a deeply sensitive, deeply lonely man. 

iv. Shaw and Fabianism 

'Do I at last see before me that old and tried friend 
of the working classes, George Bernard Shaw? How 
are you, George?' 

... I was not then old, and had no other feeling for 
the working classes than an intense desire to abolish 
them and replace them by sensible people. 1 

This is the right way, with Gissing still in mind, to approach 
the social thinking of Shaw. It is a point which he often 

When the Socialist movement in London took its tone 
from lovers of art and literature ... it was apt to as 
sume that all that was needed was to teach Socialism 
to the masses (vaguely imagined as a huge crowd of 
tramplike saints) and leave the rest to the natural ef 
fect of sowing the good seed in kindly virgin soil. But 
the proletarian soil was neither virgin nor exceptionally 
kindly. . . . The blunt truth is that 11 used people are 
worse than well used people: indeed this is at bottom 
the only good reason why we should not allow anyone 
to be ifl used. . . . We should refuse to tolerate pov 
erty as a social institution not because the poor are the 


salt of the earth, but because 'the poor in a lump are 
bad 1 . 2 

Such negative criticism is useful (it is the point made in 
Tiirgeniev's Virgin Soil) , but Shaw's conviction of the es 
sential badness of the poor is very close to Gissing (com 
pare Pygmalion with Gissing's 'Any). It exists, however, 
within a sttE deeper feeling, which is fundamental to Shaw: 

We have to confess it: Capitalist mankind in the lump 
is detestable, . . . Both rich and poor are really hate 
ful in themselves. For my part I hate the poor and 
look forward eagerly to their extermination. I pity the 
rich a little, but am equally bent on their extermina 
tion. The working classes, the business cksses, the pro 
fessional classes, the propertied classes, the ruling 
classes, are each more odious than the other; they 
have no right to live: I should despair if I did not 
know that they will all die presently, and that there is 
no need on earth why they should be replaced by peo 
ple like themselves. . . . And yet I am not in the least 
a misanthrope. I am a person of normal affections. 3 

If we look at this sentiment, soberly, we shall probably rec 
ognize it as one of the perennial sources of politics. The 
description of available mankind as 'capitalist mankind' is 
so plausible a gambit, to be followed by adherence to a 
system, and prophecy of a new kind of man, that what in 
its direct terms might not be easily confessed is soon ra 
tionalized as a humanitarian concern. It is not that one 
doubts Shaw's kindliness, his 'normal affections', but that 
one sees these, quite clearly, as pre-social affections: attach 
ments that can hardly be mediated in any adult world. The 
choice of the word 'extermination* is hardly an accident; 
it betrays the dissociated violence of the feeling, which is 
still compatible with private kindliness. 'Yahoo' is perhaps 
never shouted but by sensitive, kindly, lonely men. 

As a basis for Shaw's politics, the feeling is rational. The 
hatefolness of men, his period had taught him to believe, 
is not final; it is merely the stamp of their incomplete evolu 
tion. The agency of this evolution is still, however, in ques- 


tion. The socialism which promises regeneration by the 
coming to power of the working class will obviously not be 
acceptable: the odious can hardly negotiate the noble. In 
one way or another, regeneration is something that will 
have to be done for mankind; but then by whom? Marxist 
revolution is merely an old-fashioned liberal romanticism. 
Owenite revolution, the belief that man will accept the new 
moral world as soon as he is clearly told about it, is also 
incredible. Yet, despite the facts of human continuity, the 
odious need not at all T>e replaced by people like them 
selves'. A revolutionary discontinuity has to be achieved in 
the context of a disbelief in revolutions. In the end, Shaw 
never got out of this dilemma, but for a time, and especially 
in the 'eighties and 'nineties, he went along with a particular 
English tradition, which culminated in Fabianism. If the 
existing classes were odious, there was always, in Arnold's 
term, the 'remnant': men moved by general feelings of hu 
manity. If the appeals of Carlyle and Buskin for the aris 
tocracy to resume its functions had failed, there was always 
the other aristocracy, the aristocracy of intellect. Shaw, de 
termined on socialism, chose these means of its attainment. 
Shaw's association with Fabianism is of great impor 
tance, for it marks the confluence of two traditions which 
had been formerly separate and even opposed. Fabianism, 
in the orthodox person of Sidney Webb, is the direct in 
heritor of the spirit of John Stuart Mill; that is to say, of a 
utilitarianism refined by experience of a new situation in 
history. Shaw, on the other hand, is the direct successor of 
the spirit of Carlyle and of Ruskin, but he did not go the 
way of his elder successor, William Morris. In attaching 
himself to Fabianism, Shaw was, in effect, telling Carlyle 
and Ruskin to go to school with Bentham, telling Arnold 
to get together with Mill. One sees, even as early as Fabian 
Essays (1889), his doubts of this, when, having sketched 
a policy of gradual reform, he writes: 

Let me, In conclusion, disavow all admiration for this 
inevitable, but sordid, slow, reluctant, cowardly path 
to justice. I venture to claim your respect for those en 
thusiasts who still refuse to believe that millions of 

ig6 CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

their f elow creatures must be left to sweat and suffer 
In hopeless toil and degradation, whilst parliaments 
and vestries grudgingly muddle and grope towards 
paltry instalments of betterment. The right is so clear, 
the wrong so intolerable, the gospel so convincing, that 
it seems to them that it must be possible to enlist the 
whole body of workers soldiers, policemen, and aE 
under the banner of brotherhood and equality; and at 
one great stroke to set Justice on her rightful throne. 
Unfortunately, such an army of light is no more to be 
gathered from the human product of nineteenth- 
century civilization than grapes are to be gathered 
from thistles. But if we feel glad of that impossibility 
... if we feel anything less than acute disappoint 
ment and bitter humiliation at the discovery . . . then 
I submit to you that our institutions have corrupted us 
to the most dastardly degree of selfishness. 4 

This is Shaw at his best, but the feeling he describes is not 
a feeling that would have occurred to the normal Fabian. 
Certainly, Sidney Webb gives one no such impression. To 
Webb, socialism was the straightforward business of evo 

Historic fossils are more dangerous . . . but against 

the stream of tendencies they are ultimately powerless. 
. . . The main stream which has borne European soci 
ety towards Socialism during the past 100 years is the 
irresistible progress of Democracy. . . .The economic 
side of the democratic ideal is, in fact, Socialism itself. 
. . . The landlord and the capitalist are both, finding 
that the steam-engine is a Frankenstein which they 
had better not have raised; for with it conies inevitably 
urban Democracy, the study of Political Economy, and 
Socialism. 5 

On this, with its calm, admirable assumption of steady 
progress, William Morris's comment may be recalled: the 
Fabians, he said, 

very much underrate the strength of the tremendous 
organization under which we live. . . . Nothing but 


a tremendous force can deal with this force; it will not 
suffer itself to be dismembered, nor to lose anything 
which really is its essence without putting forth all its 
force in resistance; rather than lose anything which it 

considers of importance, it will pull the roof of the 
world down upon its head. 6 

(Webb, oddly, had also been thinking about Samson, but 
in different terms: 'the industrial revolution has left the la 
borer a landless stranger in his own country. The political 
evolution is rapidly making him its ruler. Samson is feeling 
for his grip on the pillars/ 7 There is some significance in the 
different application of the metaphor.) 

Of Webb's evolutionary argument, with its formidable 
list of public administrative arrangements already in force, 
Morris added: 

He is so anxious to prove the commonplace that our 

present industrial system embraces some of the ma 
chinery by means of which a Socialist system might 
be worked . . . that his paper tends to produce the 
impression of one who thinks that we are already in 
the first stages of socialistic Me. 8 

Webb's mistake, for Morris, was to 

overestimate the importance of the mechanism of a 
system of society apart from the end towards which it 

may be used. 9 

These are the precise terms in which, from Carlyle to Ar 
nold, the utilitarians had always been criticized. 

The argument between Morris and Webb, "between 
communism and social democracy, still rages; neither has 
yet been proved finally right. But it is significant to take tibe 
argument thirty or forty years on from Fabian Essays, and 
to compare Webb's Introduction to the 1920 edition with 
Shaw's Preface to that of 1931. Webb, in 1920, is admira 
bly himself: the intervening lines are traced and annotated; 
the questions formerly neglected are lucidly posed and dis 

We evidently attached quite insufficient importance to 

ig8 CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

Trade Unionism. . . . We were similarly unapprecia- 
tive of the Cooperative Movement. . . . We went far 
astray in what was said about Unemployment. . . . 
And whilst we were strong on Liberty and Fraternity 
... we were apt to forget Equality. 10 

These defects, however, have been remedied: the reader is 
referred to the relevant works. 

Shaw's Preface is wholly different in tone. He refers to 
Morris as 'the greatest Socialist of that day', and, on the 
central issue of the Fabian adherence to constitutional 
change, which Morris had opposed, adds: 

It is not so certain today as it seemed in the 'eighties 
that Morris was not right 11 

Shaw had, of course, lived to see Fascism, which could not 
be blandly overlooked as a fossil. He had also, however, 
lived through the essential disillusion which haunts his 
statements of the 'eighties. Socialism might be for Mill or 
Webb the 'economic obverse' of democracy, but was the 
faith In democracy real? 

The naked truth is that democracy, or government 
by the people through votes for everybody, has never 
been a complete reality; and to the very limited extent 
to which it has been a reality it has not been a success. 
The extravagant hopes which have been attached to 
every extension of it have been disappointed. ... If 
there were any disfranchised class left for our demo 
crats to pin their repeatedly disappointed hopes on, 
no doubt they would still clamour for a fresh set of 
votes to jump the last ditch into their Utopia; and the 
vogue of democracy might last a while yet. Possibly 
there may be here and there lunatics looking forward 
to votes for children, or for animals, to complete the 
democratic structure. But the majority shows signs of 
having had enough of it. 12 

Capitalism, he argues, has produced such ignorance, par 
ticularly as a result of the division of labour, that 


we should die of idiocy through disuse of our mental 
faculties if we did not fill our heads with romantic non 
sense out of illustrated newspapers and novels and 
plays and films. Such stuff keeps us alive; but it falsi 
fies everything for us so absurdly that it leaves us more 
or less dangerous lunatics in the real world. 13 

In consequence, 

the more power the people are given the more urgent 
becomes the need for some rational and well-informed 
superpower to dominate them and disable their in 
veterate admiration of international murder and na 
tional suicide. 14 

Here the wheel has come full circle, and Shaw is back with 
Carlyle. We have to set 'dominate . . . and disable* with 
'exterminate' as significant marks of feeling, but Shaw re 
mains to be listened to. In the mood that brought him to 
Fabianism, he goes on with proposals for a real elective 
aristocracy, which should inaugurate socialism and equal 
ity. In the mood of his earlier disillusion, he concludes: 

Since all moral triumphs, like mechanical triumphs, 
are reached by trial and error, we can despair of De 
mocracy and despair of Capitalism without despairing 
of human nature: indeed if we did not despair of them 
as we know them we should prove ourselves so worth 
less that there would be nothing left for the world but 
to wait for the creation of a new race of beings capa 
ble of succeeding where we have failed, 15 

This is the ironic twist of the Fabian adherence to evolu 
tion as a social model: that it comes, in Shaw, to an evolu 
tion of humanity beyond man. The twist, perhaps, was al 
ways there, in the deeply humane man who hated what he 
called 'capitalist mankind*. The situation has, in modern so 
cial thinking, a representative significance, and Shaw is al 
ways so articulate and so penetrating that he remains a 
classical point to which we are bound, in wisdom, to refer. 


v. Critics of the State 

la terms of industrial action, the Labour movement has 
gone its own way: at times, indeed, to the point where a 
Fabian might conclude that it was feeling for its grip on the 
pillars. But the political actions of the Labour movement as 
a recognizable body have, in general, been under Fabian 
direction; we now live, in certain evident respects, in a 
Webb world. The identification of socialism with State ac 
tion is the clear result of this, and the identification points 
a further argument, within the tradition which we are con 
sidering. Hilaire Belloc wrote The Servile State, and with 
Chesterton continued a mediaevalist sentiment that we have 
already traced to this point. The conclusions of this type 
of criticism have led down to a number of books in our own 
time, with Hayek's The Road to Serfdom as exemplar. Also, 
however, within the interregnum, there was an important 
body of socialist criticism of the State, in the Guild Socialist 
movement inaugurated by Penty, Orage and Hobson, and 
later continued by Cole. These currents of opinion are the 
direct inheritors of elements of the nineteenth-century tra 

Belloc's argument is that capitalism as a system is break 
ing down, and that this is to be welcomed. A society in 
which a minority owns and controls the means of produc 
tion, while the majority are reduced to proletarian status, is 
not only wrong but unstable. Belloc sees it breaking down 
in two ways on the one hand into State action for welfare 
(which pure capitalism cannot embody) ; on the other hand 
into monopoly and the restraint of trade. There are only two 
alternatives to this system: socialism, which Belloc calls col 
lectivism; and the redistribution of property on a significant 
scale, which Belloc calls distributivism. Our social difficul 
ties will not be understood if they are regarded as the prod 
uct of the Industrial Revolution: modern society was not 
formed by the growth of industry, but by the fact that 

capitalism was here in England before the Industrial 
System. . . . England, the seed-plot of the Industrial 


System, was already captured by a wealthy oligarchy 
before the series of great discoveries began. 1 

Modem society, with its propertied minority and its 
propertyless proletariat, was not created by the Industrial 

No such material cause determined the degradation 
from which we suffer. It was the deliberate action of 
men, evil will in a few and apathy of will among the 
many. . . . 2 

The root of our present evils was in fact the Reformation, 
and the seizure of the monastic lands. This created a landed 
oligarchy and destroyed the civilization of the late Middle 
Ages, where the distributive system of property and the 
organization of the guilds had been slowly creating a society 
in which all men should be 'economically free through the 
possession of capital and land*. 3 The recovery of economic 
freedom through socialism is in fact impossible: colectivist 
measures will merely make capitalism endurable, within its 
essential terms. What is being brought into being is not a 
collectivist but a servile State, in which 

the mass of men shall be constrained by law to labour 
to the profit of a minority, but, as the price of such 
constraint, shall enjoy a security which the old Capital 
ism did not give them. 4 

Such a State will be a smoothly running 'machine', in which 
aH liuman and organic complexity' 5 will be absent; this is 
why it appeals to the tidy-minded bureaucrat who is one 
main type of socialist reformer. The other type, the idealist, 
when he sees that property cannot simply be confiscated, 
and that *buying-out* is not really a change in property- 
holding but may even be a new endowment of the capital 
ists, will concentrate on getting the owners to recognize 
their responsibilities, on the promise of complementary re 
sponsibilities undertaken by the wage-earners. Here again, 
but now increasingly bound by law, the reforming meas 
ures will be producing the servile State. 

Belloc's is a very relevant criticism, which still invites 


attention. It was never clear, however, how distributivism 
was to be effected, except in a general way by recovery of 
the old faith. The redistribution of property, Belioc empha 
sized, had to be in significant amounts, and it was this that 
capitalism could not alow. He added: 

those to whom the argument for existing small prop 
erty appeals those whom our Capitalist press bemuses 
with the mere numbers of holders in Railway stock or 
the National Debt were hardly of the kind who would 
follow a serious economic discussion. 6 

It is at the point where Belioc leaves off that the Guild 
Socialist emphasis begins. A. J. Penty, a direct inheritor of 
RusMn and Morris, noted first 'the prejudice against Me 
diaeval society which has been created by lying historians 
in the past', 7 and continued: 

To Mediaeval social arrangements we shall return, not 
only because we shall never be able to regain com 
plete control over the economic forces in society ex 
cept through the agency of restored Guilds, but be 
cause it is imperative to return to a simpler state of 
society. . . , When any society develops beyond a 
certain point, the human mind is unable to get a grip 
of all the details necessary to its proper ordering. 8 

The result of such development is a spirit of anarchy, which 
is 'rife today*, and Is a sign that modem society is begin 
ning to break up'. 9 The growing disrespect for all lands of 
authority is legitimate, but it may 

develop into a revolt against authority and culture in 
general. ... To those who realize the dependence of 
a healthy social system on living traditions of culture 
it is a matter of some concern. For whereas a false 
culture like the academic one of today tends to sepa 
rate people by dividing them in classes and groups and 
inally isolating them as individuals, a true culture like 
the great cultures of the past unites them. . . . The 
recovery of such a culture is one of our most urgent 
needs. 10 


The Fabian road o collectivism is firmly rejected: 

It never presumed to be an artistic ideal. It has ended 
in not even daring to be a human one. The Anti- 
Socialist who told us that Socialism left human nature 
out of account stands justified. 11 

The needs of human nature are identical with 'the needs 
of art in industry'. 12 The Fabian programme is *far too in 
tellectual and too little human ever to get at grips with the 
realities of life'. 13 The psychology of its supporters leads 
them to seek *an external order' because they lack s any 
personal organizing principle*. 14 Such efforts are plausible, 

the Leisure State and the Servile State are complemen 
tarythe one involves the other. 15 

The Guild programme, offered as an alternative, pro 

the abolition of the wage-system, and the establish 
ment of self-government in industry through a system 
of national guilds working in conjunction with other 
democratic functional organizations in the community. 

The last phrase of this was an amendment from the original 
In conjunction with the State', and shows the high-water 
point of this kind of criticism. As a programme, the estab 
lishment of guilds became immensely difficult and contro 
versial when it encountered problems of detail. G. D. H. 
Cole, alone among the Guildsmen, was competent to trans 
late an emphasis into a practical proposition, but even he, 
in the full development of his work, transforms the pro 
gramme into an emphasis within existing forms of social 
organization. Because of these practical difficulties, which 
lie not only in the discovery of a social force to realize such 
a programme, but also in the question of the compatibility 
of 'self -government in industry* with a high degree of eco 
nomic concentration, it has been easy, too easy, to over 
look the value both of the emphasis and of the criticism of 
other kinds of socialist programme. The underlying prob 
lem, as restated by Cole in 1941, is that of ^democracy face 

204 CULTURE AKD SOCIETY 1780-1950 

to face with hugeness'. 16 The dangers of powerful central 
authority, and of a general bureaucratic organization, to 
which the Guild Socialists drew attention, have become in 
creasingly obvious since they were writing. Further, the 
dangers of socialism conceived merely as 'machinery' have 
become increasingly apparent, and have already produced 
a restlessness, particularly in matters of industrial organiza 
tion, among the working class. The gradual dropping of 
the reliance on mediaeval ideas and patterns was of course 
inevitable, but the line of thinking which is summed up in 
the word 'community', rather than in the word 'state', re 
mains an essential element of our tradition. Its reliance 
on nineteenth-century thinking about culture is clear and 

From a number of directions, the emphasis on 'commu 
nity* has received increasing support. Many now agree with 
Cole, in a point that goes back to the beginning of this tra 
dition, in Burke, that the political 

democrats set out to strip the individual naked in his 
relations to the State, regarding all the older social tis 
sue as tainted with aristocratic corruption or privileged 
monopoly. Their representative democracy was atom- 
istically conceived in terms of millions of voters, each 
casting his individual vote into a pool which was some 
how mystically to boil up into a General Will, No such 
transmutation happened, or could happen. Tom away 
from his fellows, from the small groups which he and 
they had been painfully learning to manage, the indi 
vidual was lost. He could not control the State: it was 
too big for him. Democracy in the State was a great 
aspiration; but in practice it was largely a sharn, 17 

Cole points out, however, that all lands of voluntary demo 
cratic associations, based on a real collective experience, 
have in fact grown up, and that it is to this 'vital associative 
Me' that we must look for the reality of democracy. The 
Guild Socialists failed in their effort to extend this over so 
ciety as a whole, but their emphasis was, and remains, crea 
tive and indispensable. 


vi. T. E. Huime 

If the interregnum began with the minor scepticism of 
MaUock, it ends with a major scepticism, and its only nov 
elty, in the work of T. E. Huime. For Huime challenged 
the tradition at its roots, in ways that have since taken on 
a wide and representative significance. He died at thirty- 
four, and his work embodies no complete system, but the 
emphases which he made in his preparatory work, to be 
seen in the volume Speculations which was collected after 
his death, challenge certain aspects of the inherited ways 
of thinking with power and effect. 

Hulme's basic point is that the humanist tradition, which 
has dominated Europe since the Renaissance, is breaking 
up; and that this is to be welcomed, since the fundamental 
beliefs of humanism are in fact false. He sees romanticism 
as the extreme development of humanism, and is concerned 
to reject it, and to prepare for a radical transformation of 
society, according to different principles which he calls 
classical. His distinction between romanticism and the clas 
sical is made in this way: 

Here is the root of all romanticism: that man, the in 
dividual, is an infinite reservoir of possibilities; and if 
you can so rearrange society by the destruction of 

oppressive order then these possibilities will have a 

chance and you will get Progress. One can define the 
classical quite clearly as the exact opposite to this. 
Man is an extraordinarily fixed and limited animal 
whose nature is absolutely constant. It is only by tra 
dition and organization that anything decent can be 
got out of him. 1 

This is to be supplemented by another definition: 

All Romanticism springs from Rousseau, and the key 
to it can be found even in the first sentence of the 
Social Contract. ... In other words, man is by na 
ture something wonderful, of unlimited powers, and if 
hitherto he has not appeared so, it is because of exter- 


nal obstacles and fetters, which it should be the main 
business of social politics to remove. What is at the 
root of the contrasted system of ideas . . . the classi 
cal, pessimistic, or, as its opponents would have it, the 
reactionary ideology? This system springs from the ex 
actly contrary conception of man; the conviction that 
man is by nature bad or limited, and can consequently 
only accomplish anything of value by disciplines, ethi 
cal, heroic, or political. 2 

Thus far, Hulme is doing little more than restate Burke, 
although Burke did not use this Romantic/Classical distinc 
tion. In his analysis of the driving force of the French Revo 
lution, and in his rejection of its principles, Hulme echoes 
Burke quite evidently. From this kind of analysis and re 
jection there came, we must remember, an important part 
of the idea of culture, with its emphasis on order as against 
the dominant individualism. But from its beginning in 
Burke, and in a direct line down to Arnold, this emphasis 
on order was associated with the idea of perfectibility the 
gradual perfection of man through cultivation. Hulme re 
jects this: 

The whole subject has been confused by the failure to 
recognize the gap between the regions of vital and 
human things, and that of the absolute values of ethics 
and religion. We introduce into human things the Per 
fection that properly belongs only to the divine, and 
thus confuse both human and divine things by not 
clearly separating them. . . . We place Perfection 
where it should not be on this human plane. As we 
are painfully aware that nothing actual can be perfect, 
we imagine the perfection to be not where we are, but 
some distance along one of the roads. This is the es 
sence of all Romanticism. ... If we continue to look 
with satisfaction along these roads, we shall always 
be unable to understand the religious attitude. . . . 
It is the closing of aH the roads, this realization of the 
tragic significance of Me, which makes it legitimate to 
call all other attitudes shallow. 3 


Thus, even if the Romantic view that man is intrinsically 

good, spoilt by circumstance' is rejected, its alternative, in 

Hulrne, is not 'that he is intrinsically limited, but disciplined 
by order and tradition' towards perfection; it is, rather, 
'that he is intrinsically limited, but disciplined by order and 
tradition to something fairly decent'. 4 The idea of perfec 
tion is wrongly imported from the quite separate religious 
sphere. Romanticism is 'spilt religion', 5 and in the same way 
culture, by the time of Arnold's definition of it, would also 
be, for Hulme, 'spilt religion'. 

This argument is Hulme's major contribution; it has since 
been widely popularized, notably by T. S. Eliot. The events 
of the twentieth century have contributed to its accepta 
bility. In so far as the Romantics have been rejected, it is 
in these terms. But it is necessary to remember that our 
thinking about culture has in itself outgrown Romanticism, 
yet not in Hulme's way. While Hulme's alternatives are the 
only alternatives, our experience of a violent century will 
deny the Romantic complacencies, only to offer us a new 
complacency. It may seem strange to describe Hulme's 
classicism as complacent, yet so, I think, it has been in 
effect. The pressure of the alternatives makes us suppose 
that we have to choose between considering man as 'in 
trinsically good' or 'Intrinsically limited', and then, in a des 
perate world, we are invited to look at the evidence. I can 
perhaps best describe these alternatives, however, as pre- 
cultural. Neither version of man takes its origin from a view 
of man in society, man within a culture; both are based on 
speculation about his isolated, pre-social condition. Hulnie 
points, rightly, to the 'pseudo-categories* of Romanticism, 
and to the more general "pseudo-categories' of humanism, 
As a negative critique, this is entirely useful, and it is merely 
sentimental to blame it for its pessimism. The contrast of 
pessimism and optimism, at these ultimate levels, is to be 
seen, rather, as yet another pair of limiting alternatives, 
which any adequate thinking about culture will find irrele 
vant. My own view is that Hulme is himself confined by a 
'pseudo-category', one of 

a number of abstract ideas, of which we are as a matter 


of fact unconscious. We do not see them, but see other 
things through them. 6 

This pseudo-category is the acceptance, as fact, of an ulti 
mate, essential condition of man: a nature which underlies, 
and precedes, his actual manifestation in particular circum 
stances. It is not that we may not speculate on this, but 
that if we accept it we are accepting something which no 
man can ever experience as a fact. We are then erecting a 
pseudo-category which prevents us from thinking ade 
quately about culture at all, for to think about culture can 
only be to think about common experience. I agree with 
Hulme that romanticism is 'spilt religion'. I think also that 
much of the early definition of culture was also 'spilt re 
ligion*. But I see what he calls romanticism and what he 
calls 'the classical' as alternative versions within a pseudo- 
category. There is in fact no reason why we should accept 
either. Experience moves within an actual situation, in di 
rections which the forces within that situation will alone 
determine. A version of man as perfectible or limited, a 
spirit of humane optimism or of tragic pessimism, can be 
imported into this situation, but as little more than a pos 
ture. As interpretation any such attitude may be important, 
but as programme any is irrelevant. At its worst, such an 
attitude merely rationalizes the phantasy of being above 
the common situation, able to direct it by taking thought 
in lids way or in that Hulme wanted hard, bare, unsenti 
mental thinking, but he hardly achieved it. His function 
was the replacement of one rationalization by another, but 
we cannot think about culture until we are rid of both. The 
acceptance of actual experience, commitment to a real situ 
ation from which by no effort of abstraction we can escape, 
is harder than Hulme supposed, and needs a pulling-down 
of further pseudo-categories which he, in common with his 
direct successors, failed to notice. The psychology that is 
revealed in Cinders, his notes for a Weltanschauung, in 
dicates well enough the barriers against experience which 
he had to erect. 

From his basic position, Hulme derived certain views on 
politics, and certain important views on art. In politics, he 


was concerned to reject the idea of Progress as the product 
of 'democratic romanticism', and to point out that it pro 
ceeded from a *body of middle-class thought', 7 which had 
no necessary connexion with the working-class movement. 
His own view was that 

no theory that is not fully moved "by the conception of 
justice asserting the equality of men, and which can 
not offer something to all men, deserves or is likely to 
have any future. 8 

With this in mind, he approved SoreTs critique of demo 
cratic ideology, distinguishing it from other kinds of criti 

Some of these are merely dilettante, having little sense 
of reality, while others are really vicious, in that they 
play with the idea of inequality. 

All this is useful as far as it goes, but he never took the 
points further, and found little practical allegiance. The 
combination of 'revolutionary economics* with the 'classi 
cal* spirit in elides seemed to him likely to be emancipating, 
but the combination has not yet occurred, in practice, ex 
cept in the degrading caricature of Fascism, with which 
Hulme in certain moods can be associated, but from which 
ne is essentially to be distinguished because of Ms adher 
ence to equality, a saving clause which some of his suc 
cessors either dropped or never possessed. 

The views on art are more important, if only because 
they have become the commonplaces of English criticism. 
This is not only so in language his advocacy of a 'dry hard 
ness' 10 ; his description of the Romantic attitude as 'poetry 
that isn't damp isn't poetry at alT, 11 or of romanticism as 
'always flying, flying over abysses, flying up into the eternal 
gases . . . the word infinite in every other line*. 12 It is so 
also in certain now characteristic doctrines: the rejection of 
naturalism, the tibeory of 'geometrical art', 13 the belief in 
Tines which are clean, clear-cut, and mechanical*, 14 the 
view of the coming relation between art and machinery: *it 
has nothing whatever to do with the superficial notion that 
one must beautify machinery. It is not a question of dealing 


with machinery in the spirit and with the methods of exist 
ing art, but of the creation of a new art having an organiza 
tion, and governed by principles, which are at present ex 
emplified unintentionally, as it were, in machinery/ 15 In 
all this, Hulme is a genuine forerunner: the first important 
anti-Romantic critic. 

He accepts wholly, of course, the nineteenth-century 
view of the relation between the principles of a society and 
the character of its art. He interprets the new movements 
in art as the first signs of a general change in principles, 
just as he has interpreted the art of past periods in terms of 
this kind of change. He is an extraordinarily stimulating 
critic, and his place at the head of the tradition which we 
associate with Eliot, or in another category with Read, re 
quires recognition and emphasis. The questions which we 
are then left with are important: whether the new mood in 
art, the rejection of Romanticism, is in fact based on 
Hulme's 'classical* view of man, carrying it along, as it were 
inevitably, with it; or whether, in noticing and helping to 
form this mood, Hulme was responding correctly but in 
terpreting wrongly, within his 'pseudo-category*. These are 
questions which we might wish Hulme had lived to help 
us answer; his death in action in 1917 was in every way a 
loss. But they are questions, also, which carry us beyond 
the interregnum, into our own immediate period. 





IT is easy to be aware of Lawrence's great effect on our 
thinking about social values, but it is difficult, for a number 
of reasons, to give any exact account of his actual con 
tribution. It is not only that the public projection of him is 
very different from his actual work, and that this has led to 
important misunderstandings (that he believed that *sex 
solves everything*; that he was *a precursor of the Fascist 
emphasis on blood'). These, in the end, are matters of ig 
norance, and ignorance, though always formidable, can 
always be faced. The major difficulties are, I think, two in 
number. First, there is the fact that Lawrence's position, in 
the question of social values, is an amalgam of original and 
derived ideas. Yet, because of the intensity with which he 
took up and worked over what he had learned from others, 
this is, in practice, very difficult to sort out. Secondly, Law 
rence's main original contribution is as a novelist, yet Ms 
general writing, in essays and letters, which for obvious 
reasons expresses most clearly his social ideas, cannot really 
be separated or judged apart from the novels. For example, 
his vital study of relationships, which is the basis of Ms 
original contribution to our social thinking, is naturally con 
ducted in the novels and stories, and has constantly to be 
turned to for evidence, even though it is very difficult, for 
technical reasons, to use it just as evidence. Again, he has 
certain clear positives, which appear in a central position 
in his general arguments, yet wMch again depend on what 
he learned, and shows, in the writing of the novels. We can 
quote him, for example, on vitality, or on spontaneity, or 
on relationship, but to realize these, as the matters of sub 
stance which for him they were, we can only go, as readers, 
to this or that novel. 

The thinker of whom one is most often reminded, as one 
goes through Lawrence's social writings, is Carlyle. There 

214 CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

is more ttian a casual resemblance between the two men, 
in a number of ways, and anyone who has read Carlyle will 
see the continuity of such writing as this, in Lawrence; 

The Pisgah-top of spiritual oneness looks down upon a 
hopeless squalor of industrialism, the huge cemetery 
of human hopes. This is our Promised Land. . . . The 
aeroplane descends and lays her eggshells of empty 
tin-cans on the top of Everest, in the Ultima Thule, 
and al over the North Pole; not to speak of tractors 
waddling across the inviolate Sahara and over the jags 
of Arabia Petraea, laying the same addled eggs of our 
civilization, tin cans, in every camp-nest. . . .* . . . It 
is the joy for ever, the agony for ever, and above all, 
the fight for ever. For all the universe is alive, and 
whirling in the same fight, the same joy and anguish. 
The vast demon of life has made himself habits which, 
except in the whitest heat of desire and rage, he will 
never break. And these habits are the laws of our sci 
entific universe. But al the laws of physics, dynamics, 
kinetics, statics, al are but the settled habits of a vast 
living incomprehensibility, and they can all be broken, 
superseded, in a moment of great extremity. 2 

The bitter sweep of this critique of industrialism; this vi 
brant repetitive hymn to the Vast incomprehensibility': 
these, across eighty years, belong uniquely to Lawrence 
and Carlyle, and the resemblance, which is not only imita 
tion, is remarkable. Lawrence takes over the major criticism 
of industrialism from the nineteenth-century tradition, on 
point after point, but in tone he remains more like Carlyle 
than any other writer in the tradition, then or since. There 
is in each the same mixture of argument, satire, name- 
calling, and sudden wild bitterness. The case is reasoned 
and yet breaks again and again into a blind passion of re 
jection, of which the tenor is not merely negative but anni 
hilatinga threshing after power, which is to be known, 
ultimately, only in that force of mystery at the edge of 
which the human articulation breaks down. The impact of 
each man on the generation which succeeded him is re 
markably similar in quality: an impact not so much of 

D. H. LAWBENCE 21 5 

doctrines as o an inclusive, compelling, general revelation.* 
The points which Lawrence took over from the nine 
teenth-century tradition can be briefly illustrated. There is, 
first, the general condemnation of industrialism as an atti 
tude of mind: 

The industrial problem arises from the base forcing of 
all human energy into a competition of mere acqui 
sition. 3 

Then, when narrowed to competitive acquisitiveness, hu 
man purpose is seen as debased to 'sheer mechanical ma 

When pure mechanization or materialism sets in, the 
soul is automatically pivoted, and the most diverse of 
creatures fall into a common mechanical unison. This 
we see in America. It is not a homogeneous, spontane 
ous coherence so much as a disintegrated amorphous- 
ness which lends itself to perfect mechanical unison. 4 

Mechanical., disintegrated, amorphous: these are the con 
tinuing key words to describe the effect of the industrial 
priorities on individuals and on the whole society. It is this 
condition of mind, rather than industry as such, which is 
seen as having led to the ugliness of an industrial society, 
on which Lawrence is always emphatic: 

The real tragedy of England, as I see it, is the tragedy 
of ugliness. The country is so lovely: the man-made 
Engknd is so vile. ... It was ugliness which be 
trayed the spirit of man, in the nineteenth century. 
The great crime which the moneyed classes and pro 
moters of industry committed in the palmy Victorian 
days was the condemning of the workers to ugliness, 
ugliness, ugliness: meanness and formless and ugly sur 
roundings, ugly ideals, ugly religion, ugly hope, ugly 

* I have read, since writing this paragraph, Dr Leavis's censure 
(in D. H. Lawrence, Novelist) on a comparison of Lawrence 
with Carlyle. He traces the comparison to Desmond MacCartihy, 
and predicts that it will 'recur.* Well, here it is, but not, so far as 
I am concerned, from that source. As my comparison stands, I 
see no reason for withdrawal. 

2l6 CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

love, ugly clothes, ugly furniture, ugly houses, ugly 
relationship between workers and employers. The hu 
man soul needs actual beauty even more than bread. 5 

Or again: 

The blackened brick dwellings, the black slate roofs 
glistening their sharp edges, the mud black with coal- 
dust, the pavements wet and black. It was as if dis- 
malness had soaked through and through everything. 
The utter negation of natural beauty, the utter nega 
tion of the gladness of life, the utter absence of the 
instinct for shapely beauty which every bird and beast 
has, the utter death of the human intuitive faculty 
was appalling. . . . 6 

Lawrence is here carrying on a known judgement, yet with 
his own quick perception and in his own distinctive accent. 
This kind o observation has to be made again and again, in 
every generation, not only because the atmosphere of in 
dustrialism tends to breed habituation, but also because 
(in ironic tribute to the strength of the tradition of protest) 
it is common to shift the ugliness and evil of industrialism 
out of the present, back into the *bad old days'. The re 
minder that the thing is still here has repeatedly to be 
issued. Lawrence is little concerned, historically, with the 
origins of industrialism. For him, in this century, it is a 
received fact, and at the centre of it is the 'forcing of all 
human energy into a competition of mere acquisition* the 
common element in all the diverse interpretations of which 
the tradition is composed. 

Lawrence's starting point is, then, familiar ground. The 
Inherited ideas were there to clarify his first sense of crisis. 
When we think of Lawrence, we concentrate, understand 
ably, on the adult Me, in all its restless dedication. That he 
was the son of a miner adds, commonly, a certain pathetic 
or sentimental interest; we relate the adult life back to it, 
in a personal way. But the real importance of Lawrence's 
origins is not and cannot be a matter of retrospect from the 
adult Me. It is, rather, that his first social responses were 
those, not of a man observing the processes of industrialism, 


but of one caught in them, at an exposed point, and des 
tined, in the normal course, to be enlisted in their regi 
ments. That he escaped enlistment is now so well known 

to us that it is difficult to realize the thing as it happened, 
in its living sequence. It is only by hard fighting, and, fur 
ther, by the fortune of fighting on a favourable front, that 
anyone born into the industrial working class escapes Ms 
function of replacement. Lawrence could not be certain, at 
the time when his fundamental social responses were form 
ing, that he could so escape. That he was exceptionally 
gifted exacerbated the problem, although later it was to 
help towards solving it. Yet the problem of adjustment to 
the disciplines of industrialism, not merely in day-to-day 
matters, but in the required basic adjustments of feeling, is 
common and general. In remembering the occasional 'vic 
tories'the escapes from the required adjustment we for 
get the innumerable and persistent defeats. Lawrence did 
not forget, because he was not outside the process, meeting 
those who had escaped, and forming his estimate of the 
problem from this very limited evidence. For him, rather, 
the whole process had been lived, and he was the more 
conscious of the general failure, and thus of the general 
character of the system: 

In my generation, the boys I went to school with, 

colliers now, have all been beaten down, what with 
the dm-dm-dinning of Board Schools, books, cinemas, 
clergymen, the whole national and human conscious 
ness hammering on the fact of material prosperity 
above aE things. 7 

Lawrence could not have written this, with such a phrase 
as *all been beaten down 1 , if the pressures had not been so 
intensely and personally felt. In the early stages of the im 
position of the industrial system, an observer could see 
adult men and women, grown to another way of life, being 
*beaten down' into the new functions and the new feelings. 
But once industrialism was established, an observer could 
hardly see this. Tension would be apparent to him, only in 
those who had escaped, or half-escaped. The rest, 'the 
masses', would normally appear to him fully formed the 


Ibeating down' had happened, and he had not seen It. It 
thus became possible for men in such a position to believe, 

and with a show of reason to argue, that the residual ma 
jority, the 'masses', had, essentially, got the way of life they 

wanted, or, even, the way of life they deserved the way 
*best fitted* for them. Only an occasional generous spirit 
could construct, from his own experience, the vision of an 
alternative possibility; even this, because it had to be vision, 
was always in danger of simplification or sentimentality. 
The outstanding value of Lawrence's development is that 
he was in a position to know the living process as a matter 
of common rather than of special experience. He had, fur 
ther, the personal power of understanding and expressing 
this. While the thing was being lived, however, and while 
the pressures were not theoretic but actual, the inherited 
criticism of the industrial system was obviously of the great 
est importance to him. It served to clarify and to generalize 
what had otherwise been a confused and personal issue. It 
is not too much to say that he built his whole intellectual 
life on the foundation of this tradition. 

A man can live only one Me, and the greater part of 
Lawrence's strength was taken up by an effort which in 
terms of ideas achieved perhaps less than had already been 
reached by different paths. Lawrence was so involved with 
the business of getting free of the industrial system that he 
never came seriously to the problem of changing it, al 
though he knew that since the problem was common an 
individual solution was only a cry in the wind. It would be 
absurd to blame him on these grounds. It is not so much 
that he was an artist, and thus supposedly condemned, by 
romantic theory, to individual solutions. In fact, as we 
know, Lawrence spent a good deal of time trying to gen 
eralize about the necessary common change; he was deeply 
committed, all his life, to the idea of re-forming society. But 
his main energy went, and had to go, to the business of 
personal liberation from the system. Because he understood 
the issue in its actual depth, he knew that this liberation 
was not merely a matter of escaping a routine industrial 
job, or of getting an education, or of moving into the mid 
dle class. These things, in Lawrence's terms, were more of 


an evasion than what lie actually came to do. Mitigation 
of the physical discomforts, of the actual injustices, or of 

the sense of lost opportunity, was no kind of liberation from 
the 'base forcing of al human energy into a competition of 
mere acquisition'. His business was the recovery of other 
purposes, to which the human energy might be directed. 
What he lived was the break-out, not theoretically, nor in 
any Utopian construction, but as it was possible to him, in 
immediate terms, in opposition alike to the Ibase forcing* 
and to his own weakness. What he achieved, in his life, 
was an antithesis to the powerful industrial thesis which 
had been proposed for him. But this, in certain of its as 
pects, was never more than a mere rejection, a habit of 
evasion: the industrial system was so strong, and he had 
been so fiercely exposed to it, that at times there was little 
that he or any man could do but run. This aspect, however, 
is comparatively superficial. The weakness of the exclu 
sively biographical treatment of Lawrence, with its empha 
sis on the restless wanderings and the approach to any way 
of Me but his own, lies in the fact that these things were 
only contingencies, whereas the dedication, and the value, 
were in the 'endless venture into consciousness*, which was 
his work as man and writer. 

Lawrence is often dramatized as the familiar romantic 
figure who 'rejects the claims of society*. In fact, he knew 
too much about society, and knew it too directly, to be 
deceived for long by anything so foolish. He saw this version 
of individualism as a veneer on the consequences of in 

We have frustrated that instinct of community which 
would make us unite in pride and dignity in the bigger 
gesture of the citizen, not the cottager. 8 

The 'instinct of community* was vital in his thinking: 
deeper and stronger, he argued, than even the sexual in 
stinct. He attacked the industrial society of England, not 
because it offered community to the individual, but because 
it frustrated it. In this, again, he is wholly in line with the 
tradition. If in his own life he 'rejected the claims of so 
ciety', it was not because he did not understand the im- 

2,2,0 CULTTOE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

portance of community, but because, in industrial England, 

lie could find none. Almost certainly, he underestimated 
the degree of community that might have been available 
to him; the compulsion to get away was sa fierce, and he 

was personally very weak and exposed. But he was reject 
ing, not the claims of society, but the claims of industrial 
society. He was not a vagrant, to live by dodging; but an 
exile, committed to a different social principle. The vagrant 
wants the system to stay as it is, so long as he can go on 
dodging it while stall being maintained by it. The exile, on 
the contrary, wants to see the system changed, so that he 
can come home. This latter is, in the end, Lawrence's po 

Lawrence started, then, from the criticism of industrial 
society which made sense of his own social experience, and 
which gave title to his refusal to be basely forced*. But 
alongside this ratifying principle of denial he had the rich 
experience of childhood in a working-class family, in which 
most of his positives lay. What such a childhood gave was 
certainly not tranquillity or security; it did not even, in the 
ordinary sense, give happiness. But it gave what to Law 
rence was more important than these things: the sense of 
close quick relationship, which came to matter more than 
anything else. This was the positive result of the life of the 
family in a small house, where there were no such devices of 
separation of children and parents as the sending-away to 
school, or the handing-over to servants, or the relegation 
to nursery or playroom. Comment on this life (usually by 
those who have not experienced it) tends to emphasize the 
noisier factors: the fact that rows are always in the open; 
that there is no privacy in crisis; that want breaks through 
the small margin of material security and leads to mutual 
blame and anger. It is not that Lawrence, like any child, 
did not suffer from these things. It is rather that, in such a 
life, the suffering and the giving of comfort, the common 
want and the common remedy, the open row and the open 
maMng-up, are all part of a continuous life which, in good 
and bad, makes for a whole attachment. Lawrence learned 
from this experience that sense of the continuous flow and 
recoil of sympathy which was always, in his writing, the 


essential process of living. His idea of close spontaneous 
living rests on this foundation, and he had no temptation to 
idealize it into the pursuit of happiness: things were too 
close to him for anything so abstract. Further, there is an 
important sense in which the working-class family is an evi 
dent and mutual economic unit, within which both rights 
and responsibilities are immediately contained. The mate 
rial processes of satisfying human needs are not separated 
from personal relationships; and Lawrence knew from this, 
not only that the processes must be accepted (he was firm 
on this through all his subsequent life, to the surprise of 
friends for whom these things had normally been the func 
tion of servants), but also that a common life has to be 
made on the basis of a correspondence between work re 
lationships and personal relationships: something, again, 
which was only available, if at all, as an abstraction, to 
those whose first model of society, in the family, had been 
hierarchical, separative and inclusive of the element of paid 
substitute labour Carlyle's 'cash-nexus*. The intellectual 
critiques of industrialism as a system were therefore rein 
forced and prepared for by all he knew of primary relation 
ships. It is no accident that the early chapters of Sons and 
Lovers are at once a marvellous re-creation of this close, 
active, contained family Me, and also in general terms an 
indictment of the pressures of industrialism. Almost all that 
he learned in this way was by contrasts, and this element 
of contrast was reinforced by the accident that he lived 
on a kind of frontier, within sight both, of industrial and of 
agricultural England. In the family and out of it, in the 
Breach and at Haggs Farm, he learned on his own senses 
the crisis of industrial England. When the family was 
broken by the death of Ms mother, and when lie small 
world of the family had to be replaced by the world of 
wages and hiring, it was like a personal death, and from 
then on he was an exile, in spirit and later in fact. 

The bridge across which lie escaped was, in the widest 
sense, intellectual. He could read Ms way out in spirit, and 
he could write Ms way out in fact. It has recently been 
most valuably emphasized, by F. R. Leavis, that the 
provincial culture wMch was available to him was very 

222 CU1LTUKE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

much more rich and exciting than the usual accounts infer. 
The chapel, the literary society attached to it, the group of 
adolescents with whom he could read and talk: these were 
not the *drab, earnest institutions* of the observers' cliches, 
but active, serious, and, above all, wholehearted in energy. 
What they lacked in variety and in contact with different 
ways of living was to a large extent balanced by just that 
earnestness which is so much larger and finer a thing than 
the fear of it which has converted the word into a gesture 
of derision. Lawrence's formal education, it must be remem 
bered, was also by no means negligible. 

This then, in summary, is the background of Lawrence's 
inherited ideas and social experience. It remains to examine 
his consequent thinking about community, at the centre of 
his discussion of social values. This depends on what was 
his major Venture into consciousness': the attempt to real 
ize that range of living, human energy which the existing 
system had narrowed and crippled. He put one of Ms basic 
beliefs in this way: 

You can have life two ways. Either everything is 
created from the mind, downwards; or else everything 
proceeds from the creative quick, outwards into exfoli 
ation and blossom. . . . The actual living quick itself 
is alone the creative reality. 9 

Lawrence's exploration was into this 'creative reality', not 
as an idea, but in its actual processes: 

The quick of self is there. You needn't try to get be 
hind it As leave try to get behind the sun. 10 

This 'quick of self', in any living being, is the basis of in 

A man's self is a law unto itself, not unto himself, mind 
you. . . . The living self has one purpose only: to 
come into its own fulness of being. . . . But this com 
ing into full, spontaneous being is the most difficult 
thing of all. ... The only thing man has to trust to 
in coming to himself is his desire and his impulse. But 
both desire and impulse tend to fall into mechanical 
automatism: to fall from spontaneous reality into dead 

D. H. LAWBENCE 2,2,$ 

or material reality. . . . All education must tend 
against this fall; and all our efforts in all our life must 
be to preserve 'the soul free and spontaneous . . . the 
life-activity must never be degraded into a Iked activ 
ity. There can be no ideal goal for human life. . . . 
There is no pulling open the buds to see what the blos 
som will be. Leaves must unroll, buds swell and open, 
and then the blossom. And even after that, when the 
flower dies and the leaves fall, still we shall not know. 
. . . We know the lower of today, but the flower of 
tomorrow is all beyond us. 11 

Lawrence wrote nothing more important than this, although 
he wrote it differently, elsewhere, using different terms and 
methods. The danger is that we recognize this too quickly 
as 'Laurentian' (that 'gorgeous befeathered snail of an ego 
and a personality* 12 which. Lawrence and his writing could 
be at their worst), and accept it or pass it by without real 
attention. For it is quite easy to grasp as an abstraction, but 
very difficult in any more substantial way. In al Lawrence's 
writing of this Mud one is reminded of Coleridge, whose 
terms were essentially so different, and yet whose emphasis 
was so very much the same: an emphasis, felt towards in 
metaphor, on the preservation of the 'spontaneous life- 
activity' against those rigidities of category and abstraction, 
of which the industrial system was so powerful a particular 
embodiment. This sense of life is not obscurantism, as it is 
sometimes represented to be. It is a particular wisdom, a 
particular kind of reverence, which at once denies, not only 
the *base forcing of all human energy into a competition of 
mere acquisition*, but also the domrnative redirection of this 
energy into new fixed categories. I believe that it sets a 
standard, in our attitudes to ourselves and to other human 
beings, which can in experience be practically known and 
recognized, and by which al social proposals must sub 
mit themselves to be judged. It can be seen, as a positive, in 
thinkers as diverse as Burke and Cobbett, as Morris and 
Lawrence. It is unlikely to reach an agreed end in our think 
ing., but it is difficult to know where else to begin. We have 
only the melancholy evidence of powerful and clashing 

224 CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

movements that begin elsewhere. When this is so, every 
renewed affirmation counts. 

For Lawrence, the affirmation led on to an interesting 
declaration of faith in democracy, but this was something 
rather different from the democracy of, say, a Utilitarian: 

So, we know the first great purpose of Democracy; that 
each man shall be spontaneously himselfeach man 
himself, each woman herself, without any question of 
equality or inequality entering in at all; and that no 
man shall try to determine the being of any other man, 
or of any other woman. 13 

At first sight, this looks like, not democracy, but a kind of 
romantic anarchism. Yet it is more than this, essentially, 
even though it remains very much a first term. Our ques 
tion to those who would reject it must rest on the phrase 
'no man shall try to determine the being of any other man', 
We must ask, and require the answer, of anyone with a 
social philosophy, whether this principle is accepted or de 
nied. Some of the most generous social movements have 
come to fail because, at heart, they have denied this. And 
it is much the same, in effect, whether such determination 
. of human beings is given title by the abstractions of produc 
tion or service, of the glory of the race or good citizenship. 
For *to try to determine the being of any other man' is 
indeed, as Lawrence emphasized, an arrogant and base 

To Lawrence, the weakness of modern social movements 
was that they all seemed to depend on the assumption of a 
Iked activity* for man, the 'life activity' forced into ixed 
ideals. He found this 

horribly true of modern democracy socialism, con 
servatism, bolshevism, liberalism, republicanism, com 
munism; all alike. The one principle that governs all 
the isms is the same: the principle of the idealized unit, 
the possessor of property. Man has his highest fulfil 
ment as a possessor of property: so they all say, 

And from this he concludes: 


All discussion and idealizing of the possession of prop 
erty, whether individual or group or State possession, 
amounts now to no more than a fatal betrayal of the 
spontaneous self. . . . Property is only there to be 
used, not to be possessed . . . possession is a land of 
illness of the spirit. . . . When men are no longer 
obsessed with the desire to possess property, or with 
the parallel desire to prevent another man's possessing 
it, then, and only then, shall we be gkd to turn it 
over to the State. Our way of State-ownership is merely 
a farcical exchange of words, not of ways. 15 

In this, Lawrence is very close to the socialism of a man like 
Morris, and there can be little doubt that he and Morris 
would have felt alike about much that has subsequently 
passed for socialism. 

Lawrence's attitude to the question of equality springs 
from the same sources in feeling. He writes: 

Society means people living together. People must live 
together. And to live together, they must have some 
Standard, some Material Standard. This is where the 
Average comes in. And this is where Socialism and 
Modem Democracy come in. For Democracy and So 
cialism rest upon the Equality of Man, which is the 
Average. And this is sound enough, so long as the 
Average represents the real basic material needs of 
mankind: basic material needs: we insist and insist 
again. For Society, or Democracy, or any Political 
State or Community exists not for the sake of the in 
dividual, nor should ever exist for the sake of the in 
dividual, but simply to establish the Average, in or 
der to make living together possible: that is, to make 
proper facilities for every man's clothing, feeding, hous 
ing himself, working, sleeping, mating, playing, ac 
cording to his necessity as a common unit, an average. 
Everything beyond that common necessity depends on 
himself alone. 16 

This idea of equality is "sound enough'. Yet when it is not 
a question of material needs but of whole human beings, 


we cannot say that all men are equal. We cannot say 
A = B. Nor can we say that men are unequal. We may 
not declare that A = B + C. . . . One man is neither 
equal nor unequal to another man. When I stand in 
the presence of another man, and I am my own pure 
self, am I aware of the presence of an equal, or of an 
Inferior, or of a superior? I am not. When I stand with 
another man, who is himself, and when I am truly my 
self, then I am only aware of a Presence, and of the 
strange reality of Otherness. There is me, and there is 
another being. . . . There is no comparing or esti 
mating. There is only this strange recognition of pres 
ent otherness. I may be glad, angry, or sad, because 
of the presence of the other. But still no comparison 
enters in. Comparison enters only when one of us de 
parts from his own integral being, and enters the ma 
terial mechanical world. Then equality and inequality 
starts at once. 17 

This seems to me to be the best tiling that has been written 
about equality in our period. It gives no title to any defence 
of material inequality, which in fact is what is usually de 
fended. But it removes from the idea of equality that ele 
ment of mechanical abstraction which has often been felt 
in it The emphasis on relationship, on the recognition and 
acceptance of 'present otherness', could perhaps only have 
come from a man who had made Lawrence's particular 
Venture into consciousness'. We should remember the em 
phasis when Lawrence, under the tensions of his exile, falls 
at times into an attitude like that of the later Carlyle, with 
an emphasis on the recognition of 'superior' beings and of 
the need to bow down and submit to them. This 'following 
after power', in Carlyle's phrase, is always a failure of the 
Mnd of relationship which Lawrence has here described: 
the impatient frustrated relapse into the attempt to 'deter 
mine another man's being'. Lawrence can show us, more 
clearly than anyone, where in this he himself went wrong. 
I have referred to the tensions of exile, and this aspect of 
Lawrence's work should receive the final stress. In his basic 
attitudes he is so much within the tradition we have been 

D. H. LAWBENCE -227 

following, has indeed so much in common with a socialist 
like Morris, that it is at first difficult to understand why his 
influence should have appeared to lead in other directions. 

One reason, as has been mentioned, is that he has been 
vulgarized into a romantic rebel, a type of the 'free indi 
vidual'. There is, of course, just enough in his life and work 
to make this vulgarization plausible. Yet it cannot really 
be sustained. We have only to remember this: 

Men are free when they are in a living homeland, not 
when they are straying and breaking away. 18 

And again: 

Men are free when they belong to a living, organic, 
believing community, active in fulfilling some unful 
filled, perhaps unrealized purpose. 10 

But this in practice was the cry of an exile: of a man who 
wanted to commit himself, yet who rejected the terms of the 
available commitments. Lawrence's rejection had to be so 
intense, if he was to get clear at all, that he was led into a 
weakness, which found its rationalization. He kept wanting 
to see a change in society, but he could conclude: 

Every attempt at preordaining a new material world 
only adds another last straw to the load that already 
has broken so many backs. If we are to keep our 
backs unbroken, we must deposit all property on the 
ground, and learn to walk without it. We must stand 
aside. And when many men stand aside, they stand 
in a new world; a new world of man has come to 
pass. 20 

This is the end of the rainbow: the sequel to that Rananim 
which had been one more in the series of attempts to evade 
the issues: an idealized substitute community, whether 
Pantisocracy, New Harmony, or the Guild of St George. 
Lawrence's point is that the change must come first in feel 
ing, but almost everything to which he had borne witness 
might have shown how much In the head' this conclusion 
was. He knew all about the processes of Seating down*. He 
knew, none better, how the consciousness and the environ- 

2,2,8 CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

ment were linked, and what it cost even an exceptional man 
to make his ragged breatHess escape. There is something 

false, in the end, in the way he tries to separate the material 
issues and lie issues in feeling, for he had had the oppor 
tunity of knowing, and indeed had learned, how closely in- 
termeshed these issues were. It is not a question of the old 
debate on which conditions are primary. It is that in ac 
tuality the pressures, and the responses creating new pres 
sures, form into a whole process, which 

is there. You needn't try to get behind it. As leave try 
to get behind the sun. 

Lawrence came to rationalize and to generalize his own 
necessary exile, and to give it the appearance of freedom. 
His separation of the material issues from the issues in con 
sciousness was an analogy of his own temporary condition. 
There is something, in the strict sense, suburban about this. 
The attempt to separate material needs, and the ways in 
which they are to be met, from human purpose and the 
development of being and relationship, is the suburban 
separation of 'work* and life* which has been the most com 
mon response of all to the difficulties of industrialism. It is 
not that the issues in consciousness ought to be set aside 
while the material ends are pursued. It is that because the 
process is whole, so must change be whole: whole in con 
ception, common in effort. The living, organic, believing 
community' will not be created by standing aside, although 
the effort towards it in consciousness is at least as important 
as the material effort. The tragedy of Lawrence, the 
working-class boy, is that he did not live to come home. It 
is a tragedy, moreover, common enough in its incidence to 
exempt him from the impertinences of personal blame. 

The venture into consciousness remains, as a sufficient 
life's work. Towards the end, when he had revisited the 
milling country where the pressures of industrialisiB were 
most explicit and most evident, he shaped, as a creative 
response, the sense of immediate relationship which informs 
Lady Chatterley's Lover 9 and which he had earlier explored 
in The Rainbow, Women in Love and St Mawr. This is only 
the climax of his exploration into those elements of human 


energy which were denied by the 1base forcing', and which 
might yet overthrow it. It is profoundly important to realize 
that Lawrence's exploration of sexual experience is made, 
always, in this context. To isolate this exploration, as it was 
tempting for some of his readers to do, is not only to mis 
understand Lawrence but to expose Titm to the scandal 
from which, in his lifetime, he scandalously suffered. "This 
which we are must cease to be, that we may come to pass 
in another being* 21 : this, throughout, is the emphasis. And, 
just as the recovery of the human spirit from the base forc 
ing of industrialism must lie in recovery of 'the creative 
reality, the actual living quick itself*, so does this recovery 
depend on the ways in which this reality can be most im 
mediately apprehended: 'the source of all life and knowl 
edge is in man and woman, and the source of all living is 
in the interchange and meeting and mingling of these 
two'. 22 It is not that sexual experience is 'the answer' to 
industrialism, or to its ways of thinking and feeling. On the 
contrary, Lawrence argues, the poisons of the *base forc 
ing' have extended themselves into this. His clearest general 
exposition of this comes in the essay on Galsworthy, where 
he derides the proposition of *Pa-assion*, and its related 
promiscuity, as alternatives to the emphasis on money or 
property which follows from men being 'only materially and 
socially conscious*. The idea of sex as a reserve area of feel 
ing, or as a means of Byronic revolt from the conventions 
of money and property (a Forsyte turning into an anti- 
Forsyte) , is wholly repugnant to Lawrence. People who act 
in this way are like all the rest of the modem middle-class 
rebels, not in rebellion at all; they are merely social beings 
behaving in an anti-social manner*. 23 The real meaning of 
sex, Lawrence argues, is that it 'involves the whole of a hu 
man being*. The alternative to the "base forcing' into the 
competition for money and property is not sexual adventure, 
nor the available sexual emphasis, but again a return to the 
'quick of self, from which whole relationships, including 
whole sexual relationships, may grow. The final emphasis, 
which all Lawrence's convincing explorations into the 
'quick of self both illumine and realize, is his criticism of 
Industrial civilization: 


If only our civilization had taught us ... how to keep 
the ire of sex clear and alive, flickering or glowing or 
blazing in all its varying degrees of strength and com 
munication, we might, all of us, have lived all our lives 
in love, which means we should be kindled and full of 
zest in all kinds of ways and for all kinds of things. 24 

Or again, as an adequate summary of the whole Venture 
into consciousness*: 

Our civilization . . . has almost destroyed the natural 
flow of common sympathy between men and men, and 
men and women. And it is this that I want to restore 
into life. 25 



THE author of Religion and the Rise of Capitalism is a pro 
fessional historian, subject at once to disciplines and limita 
tions which the prophets and critics of the nineteenth cen 
tury did not observe. Yet it seems to be true that the work 
of a whole school of economic and social historians in our 
own century has been directed, essentially, to the detailed 
investigation of the general judgements which, from the 
nineteenth century, they inherited. The outline was re 
ceived, and the professional researches were directed to 
wards the details of its area, and at times to its revision. 
Tawney, more clearly perhaps than any other historian 
in this century, begins not so much from the received gen 
eral outline (for this is hardly a distinguishing character 
istic) as from the inherited judgements and questions. The 
influence in particular of Rusldn and of Arnold is difficult 
not to discern; and behind this influence, as we have seen, 
is a whole nineteenth-century tradition. A work like Reli- 
gion and the Rise of Capitalism illustrates most clearly the 
difference between professional historian and general critic. 
Yet, if we compare it with a work like Southey's Colloquies, 
which stands near the head of the tradition, we remark not 
only the gain the achievement of detailed exposition over 
scattered assertion but also in moral terms the continuity. 
This emphasis on the moral terms is the most important, 
and the ratifying, quality of Tawney's work. It is no accident 
that alongside Ms formal historical enquiries he should have 
published such works as Equality and The Acquisitive So 
ciety: works which are historically informed certainly, but 
which are informed also with those special qualities of per 
sonal experience and affirmed morality which bring them 
within the categories of the traditional great debate. Taw 
ney's importance is that he is a social critic and a moralist 

232 CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

who brings to Ms disclaarge of these functions the particular 
equipment of a professional historian. 

Equality and The Acquisitive Society are important con 
tributions to the tradition. Equality is the more important, 
but The Acquisitive Society is a fine restatement and re 
valuation of a traditional case. The emphasis of both books 
can be marked by a sentence from the second chapter of 
The Acquisitive Society: 

As long as men are men, a poor society cannot be too 
poor to find a right order of life, nor a rich society too 
rich to have need to seek it. 1 

The challenge of such an attitude is, as always, radical. 

The two most important elements in The Acquisitive So 
ciety are the general discussion of changes in social theory, 
and the analysis of the idea of Industrialism. The former is 
summarized in this way*. 

The difference between the England of Shakespeare, 
still visited by the ghosts of the Middle Ages, and the 
England which emerged in 1700 from the fierce po 
lemics of the last two generations, was a difference of 
social and political theory even more than of constitu 
tional and political arrangements. Not only the facts, 
but the minds which appraised them, were profoundly 
modified. . . . The natural consequence of the abdi 
cation of authorities which had stood, however imper 
fectly, for a common purpose in social organization, 
was the gradual disappearance from social thought of 
the idea of purpose itself. Its place in the eighteenth 
century was taken by the idea of mechanism. The con 
ception of men as united to each other, and of all man 
kind as united to God, by mutual obligations arising 
from their relation to a common end, ceased to be im 
pressed upon men's minds. 2 

Thus far, the essence of this argument would have been 
familiar to Southey, Coleridge or Arnold, as it is also the 
ground-swell of the eloquent protests of Burke. Tawney 
continues his argument, however, with an appreciation 


of the new Liberalism which would then have been im 

In the modem revulsion against economic tyranny, 
there is a disposition to represent the writers who stand 
on the threshold of the age of capitalist industry as 
the prophets of a vulgar materialism, which would 
sacrifice every human aspiration to the pursuit of 
riches. No interpretation could be more misleading. 
. , . The grand enemy of the age was monopoly; the 
batdecry with which enlightenment marched against 
it was the abolition of privilege; its ideal was a society 
where each man had free access to the economic op 
portunities which he could use and enjoy the wealth 
which by his efforts he had created. That school of 
thought represented all, or nearly all, that was humane 
and intelligent in the mind of the age. It was indi 
vidualistic., not because it valued riches as the main 
end of man, but because it had a high sense of human 
dignity, and desired that men should be free to become 
themselves. 3 

The movements of liberalism and enlightenment were, 
Tawney argues, wholly necessary, but their doctrines, his 
torically considered, were 'crystallized . . . while the new 
industrial order was still young and its effects unknown'. 
The nineteenth-century individiaalism which succeeded to 
this heritage is in a different state: 

It seems to repeat the phrases of an age which expired 
in producing them, and to do so without knowing it 
For since they were minted by the great masters, the 
deluge has changed the face of economic society and 
has made them phrases and little more. 4 

The old liberating ideas were carried forward without criti 
cism into a new society, of which they became the dogmas: 

Behind their political theory, behind the practical con 
duct, which, as always, continues to express theory 
long after it has been discredited in the world of 
thought, lay the acceptance of absolute rights to prop- 

234 CULTUBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

erty and to economic freedom as the unquestioned 
centre of social organization. 5 

Tawney's whole subsequent argument is a criticism of these 
dogmas. He criticizes the 'absolute right to property' very 
much in the terms of a Tory Romantic: the right to prop 
erty is seen as conditional on the obligation to service. He 
is, however, less sanguine that the urging of this principle 
on the existing owners of property will produce any sensible 
change. He is forced, rather, to the advocacy of socialism 
as the only discernible means of restoring the idea and the 
practice of social property. This principle is the basis of all 
his most interesting recommendations. 

His criticism of the other dogma, of economic freedom, 
is also socialist in character. But he combines this with a 
criticism of 'Industrialism' which must be seen, at this date, 
as a radical criticism of much socialist policy. The criticism 
of 'industrialism* rests heavily on RusMn and Arnold, and 
much of it is in their exact terms. He sees industrialism as a 
fetish: the exaggeration of one of the necessary means for 
the maintenance of society into a central and overriding 
end. He compares it with the Prussian fetish of militarism, 
and continues: 

Industrialism is no more the necessary characteristic of 
an economically developed society than militarism is a 
necessary characteristic of a nation which maintains 
military forces. . . . The essence of industrialism . . . 
is not any particular method of industry, but a par 
ticular estimate of the importance of industry, which 
results in it being thought the only thing that is im 
portant at all, so that it is elevated from the subordi 
nate place which it should occupy among human in 
terests and activities into being the standard by which 
all other interests and activities are judged. 6 

The Acquisitive Society was written in 1921, and it is a 
measure of its insight (as well as a symptom of that 'practi 
cal conduct which continues to express theory long after it 
has been discredited in the world of thought') that the ex 
amples which Tawney gives of this 'perversion' should be 

R. H. TAWNEY #35 

so startlingly relevant, a full generation later, to the practice 
of both our major political parties: 

When a Cabinet Minister declares that the greatness 
of this country depends upon the volume of its exports, 
so that France, which exports comparatively little, and 
Elizabethan England, which exported next to nothing, 
are presumably to be pitied as altogether inferior civ 
ilizations, that is Industrialism. It is the confusion of 
one minor department of Me with the whole of life. 
. . . When the Press clamours that the one thing 
needed to make this island an Arcadia is productivity, 
and more productivity, and yet more productivity, 
that is Industrialism. It is the confusion of means with 
ends. 7 

Tawney's debt to Arnold, in this, will have been noted; as 
also, in another example, his debt to RusMn: 

So to those who clamour, as many now do, 'Produce! 
Produce!' one simple question may be addressed; 
'Produce what?* Food, clothing, house-room, art, 
knowledge? By all means! But if the nation is scantily 
furnished with these things had it not better stop pro 
ducing a good many others which fill shop windows 
in Regent Street? . . . What can be more childish 
than to urge the necessity that productive power 
should be increased, if part of the productive power 
which exists already is misapplied? 8 

In part, this observation rests on the traditional appeal for 
the rejection of 'illth* which RusMn and Morris would have 
approved. But Tawney takes the argument an important 
stage further. It is not only the lack of purpose in society 
which distorts human effort; it is also the existence and the 
approval of inequality. It was in 1929 that Tawney ad 
dressed himself fully to this latter problem, in the lectures 
that were published as Equality. 

Here, once again, Tawney's starting point is Arnold, but 
as before he expands a moral observation into a detailed 
and practical argument, Tawney argues, basically, from the 
existence of economic crisis, and concludes that efforts to 


overcome this crisis in any lasting way are consistently 
brought to nothing by the fact of social inequality. He 
draws attention to the surprise of foreign observers at the 
emphasis on class in England, and continues: 

Here are these people, they (the observers) say, who, 
more than any other nation, need a common culture, 
for, more than any other, they depend on an economic 
system which at every turn involves mutual under 
standing and continuous cooperation, and who, more 
than any other, possess, as a result of their history, 
the materials by which such a common culture might 
be inspired. And, so far from desiring it, there is noth 
ing, it seems, which they desire less. 9 

The foundations of a common culture, he insists, are eco 
nomic; their condition is a large measure of equality. But to 
raise the question of equality in England is to encounter at 
once 'doleful voices and rashings to and fro'. The questioner 
wiH be told at once not only that the doctrine is poisonous, 
wicked and impracticable, but that in any case it is a 'sci 
entific impossibility*. Tawney goes on: 

It is obvious that the word 'Equality' possesses more 
than one meaning, and that the controversies sur 
rounding it arise partly, at least, because the same 
term is employed with different connotations. ... On 
the one hand, it may affirm that men are, on the whole, 
very similar in their natural endowments of character 
and intelligence. On the other hand, it may assert 
that, while they differ profoundly as individuals in ca 
pacity and character, they are equally entitled as hu 
man beings to consideration and respect. ... If made 
in the first sense, the assertion of human equality is 
clearly untenable. . . . The acceptance of that conclu 
sion, nevertheless, makes a somewhat smaller breach 
in equalitarian doctrines than is sometimes supposed, 
for such doctrines have rarely been based on a denial 
of it. ... When observers from the dominions, or from 
foreign countries, are struck by inequality as one of the 
special and outstanding characteristics of English so- 

R. H. TAWNEY 237 

cial life, they do not mean that in other countries dif 
ferences of personal quality are less important than in 

England. They mean, on the contrary, that they are 
more important, and that in England they tend to be 
obscured or obliterated behind differences of property 
and income, and the whole elaborate facade of a so 
ciety that, compared with their own, seems stratified 
and hierarchical. 10 

Yet still, in England, the debate on equality is normally 

continued as if the proposition were absolute equality of 
character and ability. In fact, however: 

the equality which all these thinkers emphasize as de 
sirable is not equality of capacity or attainment, but 
of circumstances, and institutions, and manner of Me. 
The inequality which they deplore is not inequality of 
personal gifts, but of the social and economic environ 
ment . . . Their view ... is that, because men are 
men, social institutions property rights, and the or 
ganization of industry, and the system of public health 
and education should be planned, as far as is pos 
sible, to emphasize and strengthen, not the class dif 
ferences which divide, but the common humanity 
which unites, them. 11 

Tawney adds two further arguments. First, that equality is 
not to be rejected on the grounds that human beings differ 
in their needs: 'equality of provision is not identity of pro 
vision*. Second (and in my view of the greatest impor 
tance), that 

in order to justify inequalities of circumstance or op 
portunity by reference to differences of personal qual 
ity, it is necessary ... to show that the differences in 
question are relevant to the inequalities. 12 

It is not an argument against women's suffrage that women 
are physically weaker than men, nor an argument for slavery 
that men differ in intelligence. Further, it is not an argu 
ment for economic inequality that 'every mother knows her 
children are not equal*: it has then to be asked 'whether it 


is the habit of mothers to lavish care on the strong and 
neglect the delicate'. Nor, finally, is it an argument for in 
equality that it is supported by 'economic laws'; these laws' 
are relative to circumstances and institutions, and these are 
determined by 'the values, preferences, interests and ideals 
which rule at any moment in a given society'. 

Much of the remainder of Equality is devoted to advo 
cacy of Tawney's specific remedies; in particular, an exten 
sion of the social services, and the conversion of industry 
to a social function with the status and standards of a pro 
fession. It is difficult to disagree with the humanity of his 
arguments, but it is difficult also not to feel, as of much of 
the writing in this tradition, that although it recognizes 
what Tawney calls 'the lion in the path' it yet hopes that 
the path can be followed to the end by converting both 
traveller and lion to a common humanity. For Tawney, one 
of the noblest men of his generation, the attitude is evi 
dently habitual The inequality and the avoidable suffering 
of contemporary society are subject, 'while men are men', 
to a moral choice; when the choice has been made, it is 
then only a matter of deliberate organization and collective 
effort. 'When the false gods depart', as he says in another 
metaphor, 'there is some hope, at least, of the arrival of the 
true/ Tawney, above all, is a patient exorcizer; he meets the 
false gods with irony, and appeals, meanwhile, over their 
heads to the congregation, in the accents of a confident hu 
manism. Yet the irony is, at times, disquieting, although it 
accounts for much of the charm of his writing: 

A nation is not civilized because a handful of its mem 
bers are successful in acquiring large sums of money 
and in persuading their fellows that a catastrophe 
will occur if they do not acquire it, any more than 
Dahomey was civilized because its king had a golden 
stool and an army of slaves, or Judea because Solomon 
possessed a thousand wives and imported apes and 
peacocks, and surrounded the worship of Moloch and 
Ashtaroth with an impressive ritual. 10 

This manner is very characteristic of his general works, and 
produces at times the sense of an uneasy combination be- 


tween argument and filigree. The irony, one suspects, is 
defensive, as it was with Arnold, from whom in essentials 

it derives. It is not merely a literary device for good- 
humoured acceptance, which seems incumbent on some 
Englishmen when they feel they are going against the grain 
of their society. It is also, one cannot help feeling, a device 
for lowering the tension when, however, the tension is nec 
essary. It is a particular kind of estimate of the opposition 
to be expected, and it is, of course, in essentials, an under 
estimate. No believer in any god will be affected by the 
smiling insinuation of a missionary that the god's real name 
is Mumbo- Jumbo; he is altogether more likely merely to 
return the compliment. Tawney's manner before the high 
priests is uneasy. He seems to feel, as Arnold felt, that they 
are his kind of men, and will understand his language: if 
they do not, he has only to say it again. The spectacle con 
trasts uneasily and unfavourably with Tawney's manner in 
direct address beyond them: the steady exposition of his 
argument that contemporary society will move merely from 
one economic crisis to another unless it changes both its 
values and the system which embodies them. The manner 
of exposition occupies, fortunately, the bulk of his work. 

The discussion of 'Equality and Culture', which is ob 
viously very important, is conducted in both moods, but 
we can, fairly, omit the apes and peacocks. His position is 
at the outset the traditional one: 

What matters to a society is less what it owns than 
what it is and how it uses its possessions. It is civilized 
in so far as its conduct is guided by a just appreciation 
of spiritual ends, in so far as it uses its material re 
sources to promote the dignity and refinement of the 
individual human beings who compose it. 14 

Thus far, Tawney is saying what Coleridge or RusMn would 
approve. He continues, however: 

Violent contrasts of wealth and power, and an undis- 
criminating devotion to institutions by which such con 
trasts are maintained and heightened, do not promote 
the attainment of such ends, but thwart it. 15 


The new recognition Is just, and of Ms period. Tawney is 
concerned less with the defence of culture against indus 
trialism than with the making of a 'common culture'. The 
main objection to this is the representative objection of 

Clive Bell: that culture depends on standards, and stand 
ards on a cultivated minority; a cultivated minority is not 
compatible with the pursuit of equality, which would 
merely be a levelling-down to mediocrity. 

Tawney's answer to this objection is interesting, although 
it is difficult to feel that he meets the point about levelling 
down' with more than a sidetracking device of argument. It 
is not really relevant to point out that England has already 
'a. dead-level of law and order' and that this is generally 
approved. He observes, justly: 

Not all the ghosts which clothe themselves in meta 
phors are equally substantial, and whether a level is 
regrettable or not depends, after all, upon what is 
levelled. 16 

The argument, however, is about the levelling of standards, 
and on this, essentially, Tawney has nothing to say. 

The essence of his reply is more general. The mainte 
nance of economic inequality, he argues, tends to 'pervert 
what Mr Bell calls the sense of values': 

to cause men, in the strong language of the Old Testa 
ment, 'to go a-whoring after strange gods', which 
means, in the circumstances of today, staring upwards, 
eyes goggling and mouths agape, at the antics of a 
third-rate Elysium, and tormenting their unhappy 
souls, or what, in such conditions, is left of them, with 
the hope of wriggling into it. 17 

This collateral argument, that economic inequality while 
possibly maintaining a genuinely cultivated minority main 
tains also and more prominently 'sham criteria of eminence', 
is valid. We can agree also with the point he repeats from 
Arnold: experience does not suggest that 

in modern England, at any rate, the plutocracy, with 
its devotion to the maxim, Privatim opulentia, publice 
egestas, is, in any special sense, the guardian of such 

R. H. TAWNEY 24! 

activities (the labours of artist or student), or that, to 
speak with moderation, it is noticeably more eager 
than the mass of the population to spend liberally on 
art, or education, or the things ol the spirit. 18 

Yet, equally, it would be a forcible observation, as it was 
in Arnold, to reverse the proposition and ask whether the 
'mass' is a probable guardian. We can say that the argu 
ment about culture is not in itself an argument for economic 
inequality, but the recommendation of a common culture 
requires something more than a tu quoque. 

If we look, finally, at Tawney's central statement on cul 
ture, we shall observe the same kind of difficulty. He writes: 

It is true that excellence is impossible in the absence of 
severe and exacting standards of attainment and ap 
preciation. ... In order, however, to escape from one 
illusion, it ought not to be necessary to embrace an 
other. If civilization is not the product of the kitchen 
garden, neither is it an exotic to be grown in a hot 
house. . . . Culture may be fastidious but fastidious 
ness is not culture. . . . Culture is not an assortment 
of aesthetic sugar-plums for fastidious palates, but an 
energy of the soul. . . . When it feeds on itself, in 
stead of drawing nourishment from the common life 
of mankind, it ceases to grow, and, when it ceases to 
grow, it ceases to live. In order that it may be, not 
merely an interesting museum specimen, but an active 
principle of intelligence and refinement, by which vul 
garities are checked and crudities corrected, it is nec 
essary, not only to preserve intact existing standards 
of excellence, and to diffuse their influence, but to 
broaden and enrich them by contact with an ever- 
widening range of emotional experiences and intellec 
tual interests. The association of culture with a limited 
class, which is enabled by its wealth to carry the art of 
living to a high level of perfection, may achieve the 
first, but it cannot, by itself, achieve the second. It 
may refine, or appear to refine, some sections of a com 
munity, but it coarsens others, and smites, in the end, 
with a blight of sterility, even refinement itself. It may 


preserve culture, but it cannot extend it; and, in the 
long run, it is only by its extension that, in the condi 
tions of today, it is likely to be preserved. 19 

As a reply to the case for minority culture this is reasonable. 
Not that its language is wholly admirable: the sugar-plums 
belong with the apes and peacocks, while Tiothouse', 'mu 
seum specimen', 'sterility*, and so on, have become the 
nodes of a familiar kind of journalism. The uncertainty of 
the language marks, in fact, an important evasion of feel 
ing. The case for extension (the entirely appropriate word) 
is strong; the dangers of Imitation are real and present. But 
to think of the problem as one of 'opening the museums' or 
of putting the specimens in the market-place is to capitulate 
to a very meagre idea of culture. Tawney's position is both 
normal and humane. But there is an unresolved contradic 
tion, which phrases about broadening and enriching merely 
blur, between the recognition that a culture must grow 
and the hope that 'existing standards of excellence' may be 
preserved intact. It is a contradiction which, among others, 
the defenders of inequality will be quick to exploit. The 
question that has to be faced, if we may put it for a mo 
ment in one of Tawney's analogies, is whether the known 
gold will be more widely spread, or whether, in fact, there 
will be a change of currency. If the social and economic 
changes which Tawney recommends are in fact effected, it 
is the latter, the change of currency, which can reasonably 
be expected. For those to whom this is a feared disaster, 
Tawney's reassurances are not likely to be convincing. For 
others, impressed by Tawney's consistent humanity and 
convinced of the need for radical social change, the analy 
sis, while decent, is likely to seem lacking in depth. Tawney 
is the last important voice in that tradition which has sought 
to humanize the modem system of society on its own best 
terms. This is the mark both of his achievement and his 
limitations. We may properly end, however, by stressing the 
achievement, for Tawney is one of the very few thinkers in 
this century who, in the qualities of reverence, dedication 
and courage, ranks with his nineteenth-century prede 



WE can say of Eliot what Mil said of Coleridge, that an 
'enlightened Radical or Liberal' ought 'to rejoice over such 
a Conservative*. 1 We can do this even if, in the wisdom of 
our generation, we feel 'enlightened' as a kind of insult. For 
it is not only that, as Mil said, 'even if a Conservative phi* 
losophy were an absurdity, it is wel calculated to drive out 
a hundred absurdities worse than itself, or that such a 
thinker is 'the natural means of rescuing from oblivion 
truths which Tories have forgotten, and which the prevail 
ing schools of Liberalism never knew*. 2 It is also that, if 
Eliot is read with attention, he is seen to have raised 
questions which those who differ from him politicaly must 
answer, or else retire from the field. In particular, in his dis 
cussion of culture, he has carried the argument to an im 
portant new stage, and one on which the rehearsal of old 
pieces will be merely tedious. 

In writing The Idea of a Christian Society, Eliot adopts 
an emphasis of Coleridge: 

In using the term "Idea 3 of a Christian Society I do not 
mean primarily a concept derived from the study of 
any societies which we may choose to call Christian: 
I mean something that can only be found in an un 
derstanding of the end to which a Christian Society, 
to deserve the name, must be directed. . . . My con 
cern . . . will . . . be . . . with the question, what 
if any is the Idea* of the society in which we live? to 
what end is it arranged? 3 

From this he goes on to criticize a formidable public plati 

The current terms in which we describe our society, 
the contrasts with other societies by which we o the 
Western Democracies* eulogize it, only operate to de- 

244 CULTUBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

ceive and stupefy us. To speak o ourselves as a Chris 
tian society, in contrast to that of Germany (1939) 
or Russia, is an abuse of terms. We mean only that we 
have a society in which no one is penalized for the 
formal profession of Christianity; but we conceal from 
ourselves tie unpleasant knowledge of the real values 
by which we live. 4 

The effect of this observation resembles very closely the 
effect of Coleridge's observations on the idea of a National 
Church. Under such precision, the ^hundred absurdities' 
may be seen for what they are. 

The observation is characteristic of the tone of the whole 
work. Eliot's enquiry springs from a crisis of feeling in Sep 
tember 1938: 

It was not a disturbance of the understanding: the 
events themselves were not surprising. Nor, as became 
increasingly evident, was our distress due merely to 
disagreement with the policy and behaviour of the 
moment. The feeling which was new and unexpected 
was a feeling of humiliation, which seemed to demand 
an act of personal contrition, of humility, repentance 
and amendment; what had happened was something 
in which one was deeply implicated and responsible. It 
was not, I repeat, a criticism of the government, but 
a doubt of the validity of a civilization. . . . Was our 
society, which had always been so assured of its su 
periority and rectitude, so confident of its unexamined 
premisses, assembled round anything more permanent 
than a congeries of banks, insurance companies and 
industries, and had it any beliefs more essential than 
a belief in compound interest and the maintenance of 
dividends? 5 

The manner of this question belongs, quite evidently, to the 
tradition. And the feelings of humiliation and implication 
remind one of earlier feelings in a different crisis: the re 
action to Chartism in the 18308 and 1840$. 

A Christian community, Eliot argues, is one In which 
there is a unified religious-social code of behaviour*. 6 A 

T. S. ELIOT 245 

Christian organization of society would be one In which the 
natural end of man virtue and well-being in community- 
is acknowledged for all, and the supernatural end-beati 
tude for those who have the eyes to see if. 7 As things are, 

a great deal of the machinery of modern life is merely 
a sanction for un-Christian aims ... it is not only 
hostile to the conscious pursuit of the Christian life in 
the world by the few, but to the maintenance of any 
Christian society of the world. 8 

A Christian society will not be realized merely by a change 
of this 'machinery', yet any contemplation of it must lead to 

such problems as the hypertrophy of the motive of 
Profit into a social ideal, the distinction between the 
use of natural resources and their exploitation, the use 
of labour and its exploitation, the advantages unfairly 
accruing to the trader in contrast to the primary pro 
ducer, the misdirection of the financial machine, the 
iniquity of usury, and other features of a commercial 
ized society which must be scrutinized on Christian 
principles. . . . We are being made aware that the 
organization of society on the principle of private 
profit, as well as public destruction, is leading both to 
the deformation of humanity by unregulated industri 
alism, and to the exhaustion of natural resources, and 
that a good deal of our material progress is a progress 
for which succeeding generations may have to pay 

Industrialism, when it is unregulated, tends to create not a 
society but a mob. The religious-social complex on which a 
Christian organization of society may be built is thus weak 
ened or destroyed: 

In an industrialized society like that of England, I am 
surprised that the people retains as much Christianity 
as it does. . . . In its religious organization, we may 
say that Christendom has remained fixed at the stage 
of development suitable to a simple agricultural and 

346 CULTUBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

piscatorial society, and that modern material organiza 
tionor if 'organization* sounds too complimentary, 
we will say 'complication' has produced a world 
for which Christian social forms are imperfectly 
adapted. 10 

In such a state of disintegration, or unbalance, material or 
physical improvement can be no more than secondary: 

A mob will be no less a mob if it is well fed, well 
clothed, well housed, and well disciplined. 11 

From Liberalism we are likely to inherit only the fruits of 
its disorder, while Democracy, in terms of which we tend 
to define our social ends, means too many things to mean 
anything at which a society can direct its whole life. In this 
criticism of Liberalism and Democracy, Eliot is essentially 
repeating Carlyle: that both are movements away from 
something, and that they may either arrive at something 
very different from what was intended, or else, in social 
terms, arrive at nothing positive at all. 

The Idea of a Christian Society, in its general effect, 
serves rather to distinguish a Christian idea of society from 
other ideas with which it has become entangled, or by 
which it is evidently denied, than to formulate anything in 
the nature of a programme. Eliot's business is to confess an 
attitude, and it is an essential part of this attitude that the 
formulation of programmes cannot have priority. He ob 
serves, for instance, in a passage which leads directly to 
the kind of enquiry undertaken in Notes towards the Defini 
tion of Culture: 

You cannot, in any scheme for the reformation of so 
ciety, aim directly at a condition in which the arts will 
flourish: these activities are probably by-products for 
which we cannot deliberately arrange the conditions. 
On the other hand, their decay may always be taken as 
a symptom of some social ailment to be investigated. 12 

And he goes on to observe 

the steady Influence which operates silently in any 
mass society organized for profit, for the depression of 

T. S. ELIOT 247 

standards of art and culture. The increasing organiza 
tion of advertisement and propaganda or the influ 
encing of masses of men by any means except through 
their intelligence is all against them. The economic 
system is against them; the chaos of ideals and confu 
sion of thought in our large scale mass education is 
against them; and against them also is the disappear 
ance of any class of people who recognize public and 
private responsibility of patronage of the best that is 
made and written. 13 

Yet even against this, and for the reason given, Eliot offers 
nothing that can be called, in ordinary terms, a proposal. It 
is from this point, rather, that he begins his penetrating re- 
examination of the idea of culture in his next book. In Notes 
towards the Definition of Culture, Eliot's essential conserva 
tism is very much more evident; but I think we can assume, 
and many who now look to him might remember, that Ms 
more recent enquiry was only undertaken from the stand 
point of that far-reaching criticism of contemporary society 
and contemporary social philosophy which The Idea of a 
Christian Society so outspokenly embodies. 

The Notes towards the Definition of Culture is a difficult 
work to assess. Although short, it differs very widely within 
itself both in method and in seriousness. At times, partic 
ularly in the Introduction and in the Notes on Education, 
the method is little more than an exposure of sentences 
which Eliot has found absurd or offensive, together with a 
brief running commentary which suddenly turns and as 
sumes the status of argument. These parts of the book are 
the growling innuendoes of the correspondence columns 
rather than the prose of thought. The central chapters are 
very much more serious, and in parts of them there is that 
brilliance and nervous energy of definition which distin 
guishes Eliot's literary criticism. There is, however, an im 
portant difference from the literary criticism, of which a 
principal virtue was always the specificity, not only of defi 
nition, but of illustration. In these essays, on the other hand, 
the usefulness of the definitions is always in danger of 
breaking down because Eliot is unwilling or unable to il- 

#48 COHTimE AJSTD SOCIETY 1 780-1950 

lustrate. He makes, in the course of his argument, a number 

of important generalizations of a historical kind; but these 
are, at best, arbitrary, for there is hardly ever any attempt 
to demonstrate them. As a brief instance, this can be cited: 

You cannot expect to have all stages of development 
at once ... a civilization cannot simultaneously pro 
duce great folk poetry at one cultural level and Para 
dise Lost at another. 14 

The general point is clearly very important, and it is built 
into much of the subsequent theory. Yet, historically, one 
wants very much more discussion, with actual examples, 
before one can reasonably decide whether it is true. The 
example he gives is indeed almost calculated to raise these 
doubts; because the fact, for instance, of the co-existence, 
within a generation, of Paradise Lost and The Pilgrim's 
Progress is an obvious, and obviously difficult, case for any 
one who would think about levels of culture. It is not that 
one can be sure that Eliot is wrong, but that one can be 
even less sure that he is right. The substance of his general 
arguments is tentative and incidental, yet the manner in 
which they are communicated is often dogmatic to the 
point of insolence. For example, in his Introduction he 

What I try to say is this: here are what I believe to be 

essential conditions for the growth and for the survival 
of culture. 15 

This is a fair claim, and the tone corresponds to what is in 
fact offered. But the sentence is at once followed by this: 

If they conflict with any passionate faith of the reader 

if, for instance, he finds it shocking that culture and 
equaMtarianism should conflict, if it seems monstrous 
to him that anyone should have 'advantages of birth* 
I do not ask him to change his faith, I merely ask 
him to stop paying lip-service to culture. 16 

From try to say and what I believe to be there is an abrupt 
movement to something very different: the assertion, 
backed by the emotive devices of passionate, shocking, 

T. S. ELIOT #49 

monstrous and lip-service, that if we do not agree with 
Eliot's conditions we stand self -convicted of Indifference to 
culture. This, to say the least, is not proved; and in this 
jump from the academy to the correspondence column, 
which Eliot is far too able and experienced a writer not to 
know that he is making, there is evidence of other impulses 
behind this work than the patient effort towards definition; 
evidence, one might say, of the common determination to 
rationalize one's prejudices. Mr LasM, Mr Dent, Earl Atflee 
and the others in the pillory could hardly be blamed, at 
such moments, if they looked for Eliot not in the direction 
of the courtroom but alongside them, waiting to be pelted. 

The most important disadvantage which has followed 
from these faults in the book is that they have allowed it 
to be plausibly dismissed by those of us whose prejudices 
are different, while its points of real importance are evaded. 
The major importance of the book, in my view, lies in two 
of its discussions: first, its adoption of the meaning of cul 
ture as 'a whole way of life*, and the subsequent consider 
ation of what we mean by levels' of culture within it; sec 
ond, its effort to distinguish between 'ilite* and 'class', and 
its penetrating criticism of the theories of an *6Iite'. It is an 
almost physical relief to reach these discussions after the 
foregoing irritability; yet they seem to have been little 

The sense of 'culture' as *a whole way of life' has been 
most marked in twentieth-century anthropology and soci 
ology, and Eliot, like the rest of us, has been at least casu 
ally influenced by these disciplines. The sense depends, in 
fact, on the literary tradition. The development of social 
anthropology has tended to inherit and substantiate the 
ways of looking at a society and a common life which had 
earlier been wrought out from general experience of indus 
trialism. The emphasis on "a whole way of life' is continuous 
from Coleridge and Carlyle, but what was a personal as 
sertion of value has become a general intellectual method. 
There have been two main results in ordinary thinking. 
First, we have learned something new about change: not 
only that it need not terrify us, since alternative institutions 
and emphases of energy have been shown to be practicable 


and satisfying; but also that it cannot be piecemeal-one 
element of a complex system can hardly be changed with 
out seriously affecting the whole. Second (and perhaps of 
more doubtful value), we have been given new illustrations 
of an alternative way of life. In common thinking, the me 
diaeval town and the eighteenth-century village have been 
replaced, as examples, by various kinds of recent simple 
societies. These can reassure us that the version of lif e which 
industrialism has forced on us is neither universal nor per 
manent, but can also become a kind of weakening luxury, 
if they lead us to suppose that we have the 'whole arc' of 
human possibilities to choose from, in life as in the docu 
ments. The alternatives and variations which matter are 
those which can become practical in our own culture; the 
discipline, rightly emphasized, drives us back to look at 
these within our own complex, rather than outwards to 
other pkces and other times. 

Eliot's emphasis of culture as a whole way of Me is useful 
and significant It is also significant that, having taken the 
emphasis, he plays with it For example: 

Culture . . . includes all the characteristic activities 
and interests of a people: Derby Day, Henley Regatta, 
Cowes, the twelfth of August, a cup final, the dog 
races, the pin table, the dart board, Wensleydale 
cheese, boiled cabbage cut into sections, beetroot in 
vinegar, runeteenth-century Gothic churches, and the 
music of Elgar. 17 

This pleasant miscellany is evidently narrower in kind than 
the general description which precedes it. The 'characteris 
tic activities and interests' would also include steeimaking, 
touring in motor-cars, mixed fanning, the Stock Exchange, 
coalmining and London Transport. Any list would be in 
complete, but Eliot's categories are sport, food and a little 
art a characteristic observation of English leisure. There 
is a suggestion that he does not fully accept the sense of *a 
whole way of life', but in this illustration translates the older 
specialized sense of 'culture* (arts, philosophy) into 'popu 
lar culture' (sport, food and the Gothic churches). It is 
evident elsewhere in the book that at times he reverts to the 

T, S. ELIOT 251 

specialized sense. He says that it is possible to conceive a 
future period which 'will have no culture', 18 by which he 
can surely only mean 'will have nothing recognizable as 
culture, in the sense of a religion, arts, learning'; for if one 
applies to the sentence the sense of *a whole way of life', it 
amounts to saying that there could be a period in which 
there was no common life, at any level. There is often, in 
the book, this sense of a sliding of definitions, 
Eliot distinguishes three senses of culture: 

according to whether we have in mind the develop 
ment of an individual, of a group or class, or of a 
whole society. ^ 

He observes that 'men of letters and moralists* have usually 
discussed the first two senses, and especially the first, with 
out relation to the third. This is hardly true of, say, Cole 
ridge, Carlyle, RusMn and Morris, but it is probably true, 
or partly true, of Arnold, of whom he appears mainly to be 
thinking, and whom he quotes by name. The importance 
of the formulation, however, is not in this, but in the two 
deductions from it: first, that: 

a good deal of confusion could be avoided, if we re 
frained from setting before the group, what can be the 
aim only of the individual; and before society as a 
whole, what can be the aim only of a group; 20 

and, second, that: 

the culture of the individual cannot be isolated from 
that of the group, and ... the culture of the group 
cannot be abstracted from that of the whole society; 
. . . our notion of 'perfection' must take all three senses 
of 'culture' into account at once. 21 

These conclusions have, first, an important negative value. 
They rule out, if they are accepted, any attempt to make 
the individual's search for perfection into a plausible social 
ideal. They rule out also those extreme forms of the idea of 
a 'minority culture' in which it is supposed that the culture 
of a group can be maintained on its own terms, and within 
its own orbit, without reference to the progress of the cul- 


tare of the whole society of which the group is a part. As 
ideas, these that are rejected seem evidently imperfect; yet, 
in terms of feeling, they are curiously persistent, and much 
contemporary effort seems in fact to be based upon them. 
It is essentiaEy and ideally the function of a conservative 
thinker to show their inadequacy. 

But the vital use of these conclusions, for Eliot, lies in 
the sentence: 4 a good deal of confusion could be avoided, 
if we refrained from setting . . . before society as a whole, 
what can be the aim only of a group'. This observation at 
once initiates and supports his whole theory of class, in this 

Among the more primitive societies, the higher types 
exhibit more marked differentiations of function 
amongst their members than the lower types. At a 
higher stage still, we find that some functions are more 
honoured than others, and this division promotes the 
development of classes, in which higher honour and 
higher privilege are accorded, not merely to the person 
as functionary but as member of the class. And the 
ckss itself possesses a function, that of maintaining 
that part of the total culture of the society which 
pertains to that class. We have to try to keep in mind, 
that in a healthy society this maintenance of a particu 
lar level of culture is to the benefit, not merely of the 
class which maintains it, but of the society as a whole. 
Awareness of this fact will prevent us from supposing 
that the culture of a ^higher* class is something super 
fluous to society as a whole, or to the majority, and 
from supposing that it is something which ought to be 
shared equally by all other classes. 22 

This account, when it is set together with the insistence that 
culture is *a whole way of Me*, forms the basis of the two 
important discussions to which I have referred: that of 
levels* of culture, and that of the nature of 'class* and its 
distinction from *6Iite*. It is perhaps worth remarking, even 
at this stage, that Eliot's account of the development of 
classes is not, when historically viewed, such as will give us 
complete confidence in his subsequent reasoning. The slide 


from the differentiation of function in primitive society to 
what we call, and know as, classes, is adroitly managed, 

but it leaves out too much. In particular, the exclusion of 
the economic factorof the tendency of function to turn 
into property leaves the view of ckss narrow and mislead 
ing. Eliot seems always to have in mind, as the normal 
scheme of his thinking, a society which is at once more 
stable and more simple than any to which his discussion 
is likely to be relevant. The emergence of such 'functional' 
groups as the merchants, and then the industrial capitalists, 
and then the financiers has altered, in a very obvious way, 
the scheme which Eliot uses. For it is clear that it is possi 
ble, and has indeed widely occurred, that function can be 
come divorced from the property which, at one stage, it 
created; and, further, that the maintenance of property, or, 
in the narrower sense, of money, can become a new 'func 
tion'. When this state of affairs has been complicated over 
many generations by inheritance and accumulation, and, 
further, has been radically penetrated and affected by the 
" continual emergence of new economic functions, with thek 
appropriate classes, it becomes misleading to equate class 
and function, or even to posit any consistent relation be 
tween them. It was 'the realization of this fact, in the con 
fusion of the new industrial society, which led Eliot's prede 
cessors in this tradition to demands for change. Coleridge, 
Southey, Carlyle, Ruskfn and, in effect, Arnold, may be 
seen to have been working, above all, in the attempt to 
make 'class* into 'function', It was the absence of any con 
sistent relation between class and function which was the 
gravamen of their criticism of the new industrial society. 
One thinks indeed, at times, of Eliot as the contemporary 
of Burke, who was himself idealizing and simplifying his 
actual society. Certainly, in this later work although not, 
as we have seen, in The Idea of a Christian Socfety-he 
seems guilty of the worst kind of abstraction and failure 
to observe. 

The discussion of levels* of culture is, however, less viti 
ated by this failing than one would expect. In thinking of 
culture as *a whole way of life* Eliot emphasizes that a large 
part of a way of life is necessarily unconscious. A large part 


of our common beliefs is our common behaviour, and this 
is the main point of difference between the two meanings 
of 'culture'. What we sometimes call "culture' a religion, a 
moral code, a system of law, a body of work in the arts- 
is to be seen as only a part the conscious part of that 'cul 
ture' which is the whole way of Me. This, evidently, is an 
illuminating way of thinking about culture, although the 
difficulties which it at once exposes are severe. For, just as 
we could not assume a correspondence between function 
and ckss, so we can not assume a correspondence between 
conscious culture and the whole way of life. If we think of 
a simple, and stable, society, the correspondence is usually 
evident; but where there is complication, and tension, and 
change, the matter is no longer one of levels, a given per 
centage of a uniform whole. The consciousness can be a 
false consciousness, or partly false, as I think Eliot showed 
in The Idea of a Christian Society. Where this is so, the 
maintenance of that consciousness, which is often likely to 
be to the Immediate interest of a particular class, is no 
longer, in any positive sense, a function. We should be wise, 
therefore, to distinguish between the general, theoretical 
relation between conscious culture and a whole way of life, 
and the actual relation or relations which may at any one 
time exist in society. In theory, the metaphor of levels' may 
be iluminating; in practice, because it derives from obser 
vation not only of a culture but of a system of social classes, 
and, further, because the degree of conscious culture is so 
easily confused with the degree of social privilege, it is 

It is evident, however, that in any conceivable society, 
the degrees of consciousness of even a common culture will 
widely vary. Eliot's emphasis on this is important to the 
extent that it forces a revision of some of the simpler theses 
of the democratic diffusion of culture. There are three points 
here. First, it now seems evident that the idea of not a com 
munity but an equality of culture a uniform culture evenly 
spread is essentially a product of the primitivism (often 
expressed as mediaevalism) which was so important a re 
sponse to the harsh complexities of the new industrial so 
ciety. Such an idea ignores the necessary complexity of any 

T. S. ELIOT 255 

community winch employs developed industrial and scien 
tific techniques; and the longing for identity of situation 
and feeling, which exerts so powerful an emotional appeal 
in such writers as Morris, is merely a form of the regressive 
longing for a simpler, non-industrial society. In any form of 
society towards which we are likely to move, it now seems 
clear that there must be, not a simple equality (In the sense 
of identity) of culture; but rather a very complex system 
of specialized developments the whole of which will form 
the whole culture, but which will not be available, or con 
scious, as a whole, to any individual or group living within 
it. (This complex system has, of course, no necessary rela 
tion to a system of social classes based on economic dis 
crimination.) Where this is realized, the idea of equal dif 
fusion is commonly transferred to a few selected elements 
of the culture, usually the arts. It is certain, I think, that 
one can imagine a society in which the practice and en 
joyment of the arts would be very much more widely dif 
fused. But there are dangers, both to the arts and to the 
whole culture, if the diffusion of this abstracted part of the 
culture is planned and considered as a separate operation. 
One aspect of these dangers may be seen in the second 
point: that ideas of the diffusion of culture have normally 
been dominative in character, on behalf of the particular 
and finished ideal of an existing ckss. This, which I would 
call the Fabian tone in culture, is seen most clearly in an 
ideal which has been largely built into our educational sys 
tem, of leading the unenlightened to the particular kind of 
light which the leaders find satisfactory for themselves. A 
particular land of work is to be extended to more persons, 
although, as a significant tiling, it exists as a whole in the 
situation in which it was produced. The dominative element 
appears in the conviction that the product will not need 
to be changed, that criticism is merely the residue of mis 
understanding, and, finally, that the whole operation can 
be carried out, and the product widely extended, without 
radically changing the general situation. This may be sum 
marized as the belief that a culture (in the specialized 
sense) can be widely extended without changing the cul- 


tare (in the sense of *a whole way of life') within which it 
has existed. 

Eliot's arguments help us to see the limitations of these 
ideas, although he hardly presses the discussion home. 
What he develops has more relevance to the third point, 
which follows from the second, that the specialized culture 
cannot be extended without being changed. His words for 
'change' are, of course, 'adulteration' and "cheapening'; and 
we must grant him, for his own purposes, his own valua 
tions. Yet, while we may have other valuations, and see 
Variation* and 'enrichment* as at least equal possibilities 
with those which Eliot foresees, his emphasis that any ex 
tension involves change is welcome. Nothing is to be gained 
by supposing that the values of one way of life can be 
transferred, unchanged, to another; nor is it very realistic 
to suppose that a conscious selection of the values can be 
made-the bad to be rejected and the good to be transferred. 
Eliot is right in insisting that the thought about culture 
which has led to these positions is confused and shallow. 

Eliot, from his insistence on culture as *a whole way of 
life*, has valuably criticized the orthodox theories of the 
diffusion of culture, and there is, as he sees it, only one 
further obstacle to the acceptance of his general view. This 
obstacle is the theory, primarily associated with Mannheim, 
of the substitution of Elites for classes. Mannheim's argu 
ment may be seen, fundamentally, as an epilogue to the 
long nineteenth-century attempt to reidentify class with 
function. This took the form, either of an attempt to revive 
obsolete classes (as in Coleridge's idea of the clerisy) , or of 
an appeal to existing classes to resume their functions 
(Carlyle, Rusldn) , or of an attempt to form a new class, the 
civilizing minority (Arnold) . Mannheim, quite rightly, real 
izes that these attempts have largely failed. Further, he re 
jects the idea of classes based on birth or money, and, em- 
pnasizing the necessary specialization and complexity of 
modem society, proposes to substitute for the old classes the 
new Elites, whose basis is neither birth nor money, but 
achievement. In practice, one can see our own society as a 
mixture of the old ideas of class and the new ideas of an 
6Iite: a mixed economy, if one may put it in that way. The 

T. S. ELIOT #57 

movement towards acceptance of the idea of elites has, of 

course, been powerfully assisted by the doctrines of oppor 
tunity in education and of the competitive evaluation of 

merit. The degree of necessary specialization, and the im 
perative requirement for quality in it, have also exerted a 
strong and practical pressure. 

Eliot's objections to Mannheim's theory can be summa 
rized in one of his sentences: that 'it posits an atomic view 
of society*. 23 The phrase will be recognized as belonging to 
the tradition: the opposite to atomic is organic, a word on 
which (without more definition than is common) Eliot 
largely depends. His instinct, in this, is right: the theory 
of Elites is, essentially, only a refinement of social laissez- 
faire. The doctrine of opportunity in education is a mere 
silhouette of the doctrine of economic individualism, with 
its emphasis on competition and 'getting-on'. The doctrine 
of equal opportunity, which appears to qualify this, was 
generous in its conception, but it is tied, in practice, to the 
same social end. The definition of culture as *a whole way 
of life* is vital at this point, for Eliot is quite right to point 
out that to limit, or to attempt to limit, the transmission of 
culture to a system of formal education is to limit a whole 
way of life to certain specialisms. If this Bruited programme 
is vigorously pressed, it is indeed difficult to see how it can 
lead to anything but disintegration. What will happen in 
practice, of course, when the programme is combined with 
a doctrine of opportunity (as it now largely Is) is the 
setting-up of a new Mnd of stratified society, and the crea 
tion of new kinds of separation. Orthodoxy, in this matter, 
is now so general and so confident that it is even difficult 
to communicate one's meaning when one says that a strati 
fied society, based on merit, is as objectionable in every hu 
man term as a stratified society based on money or on birth. 
As it has developed, within an inherited economic system, 
the idea of such a society has been functionally authoritar 
ian, and it has even (because of the illusion that its criteria 
are more absolute than those of birth or money, and can 
not be appealed against in the same way) a land of Utopian 
sanction, which makes criticism difficult or impossible. 

Eliot's objections to an 61ite society are, first, that its com- 


mon culture will be meagre, and, second, that the principle 
of Elites requires a change of persons in each generation, 
and that this change is bound to be effected without the 
important guarantee of any continuity wider than the Elite's 
own specialisms. The point rests again on the insistence 
that culture is s a whole way of life*, rather than certain spe 
cial skills. Eliot argues that while an 61ite may have more 
of the necessary skills than a class, it will lack that wider 
social continuity which a class guaranteed. Mannheim him 
self has emphasized the importance of this continuity, but 
the idea of the selection and reselection of Elites seems to 
deny it, unless some new principle is introduced. Eliot's em 
phasis is on the whole content of a culture the special skills 
being contained, for their own health, within it. And cer 
tainly there is a good deal of evidence, from many parts 
of our educational and training systems, of the co-existence 
of fine particular skills with mediocre general sKUs: a state 
of affairs which has important effects, not only on the Elites, 
but on the whole common way of life. 

Eliot recognizes the need for 6Mtes, or rather for an Iite, 
and argues that, to ensure general continuity, we must re 
tain social classes, and in particular a governing social class, 
with which the Site will overlap and constantly interact. 
This is Eliot's fundamentally conservative conclusion, for it 
is clear, when the abstractions are translated, that what he 
recommends is substantially what now exists, socially. He 
is, of course, led necessarily to condemn the pressure for a 
classless society, and for a national educational system. He 
believes, indeed, that these pressures have already distorted 
the national life and the values which this life supports. It 
is in respect of these recommendations (not always reached 
by the same paths) that lie now commands considerable 
attention and support. 

I have already indicated that I believe his criticism of 
certain orthodox ideas of 'culture' to be valuable, and I 
think that he has left the ordinary social-democratic case 
without many relevant answers. As a conservative thinker, 
he has succeeded in exposing the limitations of an orthodox 
liberalism' which has been all too generally and too com 
placently accepted. Where I find myself differing from him 

T. S. ELIOT 559 

(and I differ radically) is not in the main in his critique of 

this liberalism'; it is rather in the present implications of 
considering culture as *a whole way of life*. It seems to me 
that Ms theoretical persistence in this view is matched only 
by his practical refusal to observe (a refusal which was less 
evident, at certain points, in The Idea of a Christian So- 
ciety) . For what is quite clear in the new conservatism (and 
this makes it very different from, and much inferior to, the 
conservatism of a Coleridge or a Burke) is that a genuine 
theoretical objection to the principle and the effects of an 
'atomized', individualist society is combined, and has to be 
combined, with adherence to the principles of an economic 
system which is based on just this 'atomized', individualist 
view. The 'free economy* which is the central tenet of con 
temporary conservatism not only contradicts the social prin 
ciples which Eliot advances (if it were only this one could 
say merely that he is an unorthodox conservative) , but also, 
and this is the real confusion, is the only available method 
of ordering society to the maintenance of those interests and 
institutions on which Eliot believes his values to depend. 
Against the actual and powerful programme for the main 
tenance of social classes, and against the industrial capital 
ism which actually maintains the human divisions that he 
endorses-, the occasional observation, however deeply felt, 
on the immorality of exploitation or usury seems, indeed, 
a feeble velleity. If culture were only a specialized product, 
it might be afforded, in a kind of reserved area, away from 
the actual drives of contemporary society. But if it is, as 
Eliot insists it must be, *a whole way of life*, then the whole 
system must be considered and judged as a whole. The in 
sistence, in principle, is on wholeness; the practice, in effect, 
is fragmentary. The triumphant liberalism of contemporary 
society, which the practice of conservatives now so notably 
sustains, will, as anyone who thinks about a 'whole way of 
life' must realize, colour every traditional value. The prog 
ress which Eliot deplores is in fact the product of all that is 
actively left of the traditional society from which his values 
were drawn. This is the root, surely, of that bleakness which 
Eliot's social writings so powerfully convey. His standards 
are too strict for him to turn, as other philosophical con- 


servatives are turning, to the recovery of the bones of 
Burke, the nostalgia for 1788. The bleakness, which is a 
Jdnd of discipline, is wholly salutary: the fashionable *New 
Conservatism' has been much too easy. If Eliot, when read 
attentively, has the effect of checking the complacencies of 
liberalism, he has also, when read critically, the effect of 
making complacent conservatism impossible. The next step, 
in thinking of these matters, must be in a different direc 
tion, for Eliot has closed almost all the existing roads. 



i. I. A. Richards 

IT is not too much to say that Principles of Literary Criti 
cism, which I. A. Richards published in 1924, contained a 
programme o critical work for a generation. One is sur 
prised, on re-reading the book, to see how certain para 
graphs in it have been expanded into whole volumes, 
usually by other writers. Richards himself has followed up 
only a part of what is there indicated: his later work is al 
most wholly a study o language and communication, in 
which throughout he has been a pioneer. But the "Principles, 
and the shorter Science and Poetrn, published in 1926, 
offer and depend upon a particular idea of culture which 
is essentially a renewed definition of the importance of art 
to civilization. 

The critical revolt of the 19203 has been described as a 
revolt against Romantic theory. Yet it is less this than a 
revolt against something nearer and more oppressive: not 
Romantic theory itself but one of its specialized conse 
quences, Aesthetic theory. The isolation of aesthetic experi 
ence, which had been evident in England between Pater 
and Clive Bel, and which by the 'twenties had become a 
kind of orthodoxy, was attacked along several different 
lines. From Eliot came the re-emphasis of tradition and 
faith; from Leavis a rediscovery of the breadth of general 
emphasis which Arnold had given to culture; from the 
Marxists the application of a new total interpretation of so 
ciety. From Richards, if we view Ms work as a whole, the 
theoretical attack came through the social facts of language 
and communication. But the judgement on which this at 
tack was founded is (as in Leavis, and with a similar de 
pendence on Arnold) a matter of the whole culture: 

Human conditions and possibilities have altered more 
in a hundred years than they had in the previous ten 

262, CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

thousand, and the next fifty may overwhelm us, unless 
we can devise a more adaptable morality. . , . We 

pass as a rule from a chaotic to a better organized 
state by ways which we know nothing about. Typi 
cally through the influence of other minds. Literature 
and the arts are the chief means by which these influ 
ences are diffused. It should be unnecessary to insist 
upon the degree to which high civilization, in other 
words, free, varied and unwasteful Me, depends upon 
them in a numerous society. 1 

The word 'numerous* indicates Richards's diagnosis of one 
of the major changes of condition: 

With the increase of population the problem presented 
by the gulf between what is preferred by the majority 
and what is accepted as excellent by the most quali 
fied opinion has become infinitely more serious and ap 
pears likely to become threatening in the near future. 
For many reasons standards are much more in need of 
defence than they used to he. 2 

The increase of population interacts with the other element 
of change which Richards identifies: what he calls the 
'neutralization of nature'; 

the transference from the Magical View of the world 
to the scientific. . . . Science can tell us about man's 
place in the universe and his chances. . . . But it can 
not tell us what we are or what this world is; not be 
cause these are in any sense insoluble questions, but 
because they are not questions at all. And if science 
cannot answer these pseudo-questions no more can 
philosophy or religion. So that all the varied answers 
which have for ages been regarded as the keys of wis 
dom are dissolving together. The result is a biologi 
cal crisis which is not likely to be decided without 
trouble. 8 

At one level the problem is the defence of standards: the 
finding of adequate reasons to support minority standards 
against the depredations of a commercialism that controls 


majority taste. At another level, the discovery o these rea 
sons is the necessary advance in consciousness which man 
must make if he is to control his destiny now that the old 
orientations have gone: no longer *a Rock to shelter under 
or to cling to', but 'an efficient aeroplane in which to 
ride . . . this tempestuous turmoil of change'. Richards's 
sketch of a solution to these problems is his 'Psychological 
Theory of Value'. Like Arnold, he is offering culture as an 
alternative to anarchy, but culture as an idea has to be 
founded on a conception of value dependent not on the old 
*keys of wisdom' but on what can be discovered in the new 

Richards is careful in his subsequent arguments to em 
phasize the tentative nature of any such discovery, in our 
present state of knowledge. But he is prepared to offer an 
interpretation or formula on which most of his subsequent 
work will depend. The conduct of life, he argues, 

is throughout an attempt to organize impulses so that 
success is obtained for the greater number or mass of 
them, for the most important and the weightiest set. 4 

Impulses can be divided into 'appetencies* ('seekings after*) 
and 'aversions', both of which may be unconscious. Then: 

anything is valuable which will satisfy an appetency 
without involving the frustration of some equal or 
more important appetency. 5 

Importance, here, is defined as 

the extent of the disturbance of other impulses in the 
individual's activities which the thwarting of the im 
pulse involves. 6 

Such disturbance is disorganization. The adjustment of im 
pulses is the process of organization. Right conduct then 
becomes a matter of such adjustment and such organiza 
tion. Value is a question of the growth of order. When the 
question is transferred from the individual to the commu 
nity, it can be answered in similar terms. The 'greatest hap 
piness of the majority', in Bentham's term, becomes 'the 
highest degree of organization of the satisfaction of im- 


pulses'. A common standard will ind some individuals 
above, some below it. The tensions thus set up should be 
resolved, not in terms of majorities, but 

of the actual range and degree of satisfaction which 
different possible systematizations of impulse yield. 7 

The danger of any public system is that it will waste and 
frustrate available energy. Social reform is a matter of lib 
eration, through the Mad of organization described, al 
though the process wffl not be primarily conscious or 
planned. The importance of literature and the arts is that 
they offer supreme examples of such organization, and that 
in doing so they provide Values' (not prescriptions or mes 
sages, but examples of a necessary common process). It 
is through experience of and attention to such values that 
the wider common reorganization can be initiated and 
maintained. It is in this sense that 'poetry can save us': 

it is a perfectly possible means of overcoming chaos. 8 

Thus we return to Arnold's prescription of culture against 
anarchy, but both 'culture' and *the process of perfection' 
have been newly defined. 

Richards goes on from this theory of value to describe 
the psychology of the artist. Basically, the importance of 
the artist is that a wider area of experience is available to 
him than to the normal person. Or, to put it in another way, 
he is more capable of the kind of organization which has 
been described, and is therefore 'able to admit far more 
without confusion'. Yet his usefulness, in this, will depend 
upon his relative normality. 

The ways . . . in which the artist will differ from the 
average will as a rule presuppose an immense degree 
of similarity. They will be further developments of or 
ganizations already well advanced in the majority. His 
variations will be conlned to the newest, the most plas 
tic, the least ixed part of the mind, the parts for which 
reorganization is most easy. 

Not all such variations can or ought to be generally fol 
lowed. But often they will be significant advances which 


can serve as models for a general advance. Further, the ex 
istence of finely organized responses in the arts offers a con 
tinual standard by which what Richards calls the 'stock 
responses' can be seen and judged. At any time certain in 
complete adjustments, certain immature and inapplicable 
attitudes, can be fixed into formulas and widely suggested 
and diffused: 

The losses incurred by these artificial fixations of at 
titudes are evident. Through them the average adult is 
worse, not better adjusted to the possibilities of his ex 
istence than the child. He is even in the most impor 
tant tilings functionally unable to face facts; do what 
he will he is only able to face fictions, fictions projected 
by his own stock responses. Against these stock re 
sponses the artist's internal and external conflicts are 
fought, and with them the popular writer's triumphs 
are made. 10 

The exploitation of these stock responses by commerciaKzed 
art and literature, and by the cinema, is a notable fact of 
our own culture. While good art may serve the common 
process of finer organization, bad art will not only not serve 
it, but actively hinder it: 

The effects we are considering depend only upon the 
kind and degree of organization which is given to the 
experiences. If it is at the level of our own best at 
tempts or above it (but not so far above as to be out 
of reach) we are refreshed. But if our own organization 
is broken down, forced to a cruder, a more wasteful 
level, we are depressed and temporarily incapacitated, 
not only locally but generally . . . unless the critical 
task of diagnosis is able to restore equanimity and 
composure. 11 

On this attitude to good and bad literature, a whole subse 
quent critical and educational programme has been based. 
It remains to consider a final point made by Richards, 
about the social function of art. He takes the familiar the 
ory of art as play and by redefining play returns art to a 
central position, instead of the marginal leisure-time' posi- 

#66 CULTORE AKD SOCIETY 1780-1950 

tion which the description as play was meant to suggest 
The redefinition rests again on the criterion of organization. 
Art is play in the sense that 

in a folly developed man a state of readiness for action 
will take the place of action when the full appropriate 
situation for action is not present. 12 

Pky is the training of readiness for action, either in a special 
or in a general field. Art, in creating and offering us a situa 
tion, is in this sense experimental. 

In ordinary life a thousand considerations prohibit for 
most of us any complete working-out of our response; 
the range and complexity of the impulse-systems in 
volved is less; the need for action, the comparative un 
certainty and vagueness of the situation, the intru 
sion of accidental irrelevancies, inconvenient temporal 
spacing the action being too slow or too fastall these 
obscure the issue and prevent the full development of 
the experience. We have to jump to some rough and 
ready solution. But in the Imaginative experience* 
these obstacles are removed. Thus what happens here, 
what precise stresses, preponderances, conflicts, reso 
lutions and intermanimations, what remote relation 
ships between different systems of impulses arise, what 
before unapprehended and inexecutable connections 
are established, is a matter which, we see clearly, may 
modify all the rest of life.* 3 

The experience of Eterature is thus a kind of training for 
general experience: a training, essentially, in that capacity 
for organization which is man's only profitable response to 
his altered and dangerous condition. 

This summary o Bichards's basic position serves to 
show, first, the degree to which he is an inheritor of the 
general tradition, and second, the extent to which, by of 
fering a positive account, he has clarified certain of its con 
temporary issues. The clarification is real, as far as it goes, 
and its applications in criticism have been of major value. 
One of the most valuable points is Richards's return to that 
idea of the relative normality of the artist which Words- 


worth had defined, but which later Romantic writing had 
rejected. Herbert Read also defiaes art as a 'mode of knowl 
edge', and describes its social function in terms very similar 
to those of Richards. But Read, supported by Freud, re 
iterates that view of the artist's essential abnormality which 
as much as anything has denied art's social bearings. Read 
offers the model of three strata of the mind, with the artist 
as an example of a kind of 'fault* which exposes the strata 
to each other at unusual levels. In the matter of demonstra 
ble psychology, our theories of art are still almost wholly 
speculative, but the crudeness of Freud's casual comment 
on the artist as 'neurotic* is sufficiently evident. Read's ver 
sion of contact with deep levels of the mind through the 
"fault*, and of the actual making of art as an investment of 
this contact 'with superficial charms . . . lest the bare truth 
repel us', 14 is similarly unsatisfactory. The whole concept 
of levels of the mind 5 , even if restricted to consideration as 
a model, is more static than experience appears to require. 
If we think, rather, of moving patterns and relations, the 
question of Valuable derangement', and even of 'normality*, 
seems a limiting term. To separate creation and execution 
is the mark of the Romantic disintegration of 'art* into the 
separable qualities of 'imaginative truth* and 'skill*. On the 
whole, Richards's version of art as 'organization* both re 
stores the unity of conception and execution, and offers an 
emphasis which can be profitably investigated. We should 
add, however, that nearly all theoretical discussions of art 
since the Industrial Revolution have been crippled by the 
assumed opposition between art and the actual organiza 
tion of society, which is important as the historical phe 
nomenon that has been traced, but which can hardly be 
taken as an absolute. Individual psychology has been simi 
larly limited by an assumption of opposition between in 
dividual and society which is in fact only a symptom of 
society's transitional disorganization. Until we have lived 
through this, we are not likely to achieve more than a lim 
ited theory of art, but we can be glad meanwhile that the 
starting point which has for so long misled usthe artist's 
necessary abnormality is being gradually rejected in the 
ory, and almost wholly rejected, in terms of practical feel- 


ing, among a majority of actual artists. The renewed em 
phasis on communication is a valuable sign of our gradual 
recovery of community. 

Richards has had much that is useful to say about com 
munication, but, in the general position within which this 
has been offered, there are, I think, two points of question. 
First, while what Richards says about the extension and 
refinement of organization is obviously useful, and corre 
sponds in a general way to one's actual experience of litera 
ture, there is an element of passivity in his idea of the re 
lationship between reader and work which might in the 
end be disabling. What one most wants to know about this 
process is the detail of its practical operation, at the highest 
and most difficult levels. The point can be illustrated, al 
though this does not in itself affect the theory, from Rich- 
ards's own criticism. He is always very good at the demon 
stration of a really crude organization, as in the Wilcox 
sonnet discussed in Principles. But he has not offered 
enough really convincing examples of the intense realiza 
tion of a rich or complex organization, which in general 
terms he has often described. He often notes the complex 
ity, but the discussion that follows is usually a kind of return 
on itself, a return to the category 'complexity*, rather than 
an indication of that ultimate refinement and adjustment 
which is his most positive general value. One has the sense 
of a manipulation of objects which are separate from the 
reader, which are out there in the environment. Further, 
and perhaps as a consequence of this, there is at times a 
kind of servility towards the literary establishment. This 
seems an astonishing thing to say about the writer who in 
Practical Criticism did more than anyone else to penetrate 
the complacency of literary academicism. So much, indeed, 
is willingly and gratefully granted. But the idea of litera 
ture as a training-ground for life is servile. Richards's ac 
count of the inadequacy of ordinary response when com 
pared with the adequacy of literary response is a cultural 
symptom rather than a diagnosis. Great literature is indeed 
enriching, liberating and refining, but man is always and 
everywhere more than a reader, has indeed to be a great 
deal else before he can even become an adequate reader; 


unless indeed he can persuade himself that literature, as an 
ideal sphere of heightened living, will under certain cultural 
circumstances operate as a substitute. "We shall then be 
thrown back . . . upon poetry. It is capable of saving us/ 
The very form of these sentences indicates the essential pas 
sivity which I find disquieting. Poetry, in this construction, 
is the new anthropomorph. Richards's general account may 
indeed be an adequate description of man's best use of lit 
erature, and such a use, if it comes to be articulated, will 
show itself in major criticism. But one has the feeling that 
Richards, overwhelmed, has picked out from a generally 
hostile environment certain redeeming features, and is con 
cerned thereafter with finding a technique by means of 
which these features may be not so much used as enabled 
to operate on him and others. 

This point is related to my second question, which 
formed itself, while I was reading, as the observation that 
Richards is remarkably innocent of company. By this I 
sought to mean, first, that his characteristic relationship is 
that of a sole man to a total environment, which is seen, 
again out there, as an object. His discussion, in the account 
of the theory of value, of the extension to 'communal af 
fairs', is characteristically, as in Bentham, based on a mini 
mal self-protective abstraction. His rational critique of cus 
tom is, as with the Utilitarians, often useful. But the basic 
attitude to custom is negative; the critic does not feel him 
self essentially involved. Few writers have referred more 
often than Richards to what may now be called global 
problems, and his own work towards 'the possibilities of 
World Communication which Basic English holds out? may 
be seen as a contribution to their solution. Yet this kind of 
concern is hardly social in the Ml sense. His advocacy of 
the rule of Reason (in the conclusion of How to Read a 
Page) is of course positive, as against the confusion which. 
he and others have analysed. But where, in what bodies, do 
reason and confusion operate? Where, in what relation 
ships, are they denied or confirmed? These questions, and 
surely both must be answered, are bound to lead into the 
whole complex of action and interaction which is the prac 
tice of living, and which we cannot reduce to such an ab- 

270 CULTDKE AND SOCIETY 1780*1950 

straction as 'the contemporary situation'. Bichards's account 
of the genesis of our problems is a selection of certain 
products, not only science as a product but even, in the 
terms of the discussion, increased population as a product. 
His business, then, is to find another product that is re 
deeming. Yet tins innocence of process, which follows natu 
rally enough from an innocence of company, is disabling. 
We are faced not only with products but with the breath, 
the band, that makes, maintains, changes or destroys. All 
that Richards has taught us about language and commu 
nication, and for which we acknowledge our debt, has to 
be reviewed, finally, when we have rid ourselves of those 
vestiges of Aesthetic Man alone in a hostile environment, 
receiving and organizing his experience which Richards, 
even as brilliant opponent, in fact inherited, 

n. F. R. Leavis 

F. R, Leavis, in the pamphlet Mass Civilization and Mi 
nority Culture published in 1930, outlined a particular view 
of culture which has become very widely influential. As in 
his literary criticism, there is a body of detailed judgements, 
and there is also an outline of history. In Culture and En 
vironment, written jointly with Denys Thompson and pub 
lished in 1933, the detailed judgements recur, and the out 
line of history is significantly enlarged. Thereafter, and 
mainly in Scrutiny , this essential case continued to be pre 
sented. It is natural to associate with it books like Q. D. 
Leavis's Fiction and the Reading Public, Denys Thomp 
son's Between the Lines and Voice of Civilization, and L. C. 
Knights* work in Drama and Society in the Age of Jonson 
and Explorations. Leavis's own later writings in this field, 
which continually interact with his literary criticism, can be 
conveniently examined in Education and the University and 
The Common Pursuit. From this whole body of work, to 
which one must add a large number of minor contribu 
tions by other writers, the significant 'case' emerges clearly 

The basis of the case, and of the essential connexion with 


literary studies, appears in the opening pages o Mass Civi 
lization and Minority Culture: 

In any period it is upon a very small minority that the 
discerning appreciation of art and literature depends: 
it is (apart from cases of the simple and familiar) only 
a few who are capable of unprompted, first-hand judg 
ment. They are still a small minority, though a larger 
one, who are capable of endorsing such first-hand 
judgment by genuine personal response. The accepted 
valuations are a Mnd of paper currency based upon a 
very small proportion of gold. To the state of such a 
currency the possibilities of fine living at any time bear 
a close relation. . . . The minority capable not only of 
appreciating Dante, Shakespeare, Donne, Baudelaire, 
Hardy (to take major instances) but of recognizing 
their latest successors constitute the consciousness of 
the race (or of a branch of it) at a given time. For 
such capacity does not belong merely to an isolated 
aesthetic realm: it implies responsiveness to theory as 
well as to art, to science and philosophy in so far as 
these may affect the sense of the human situation and 
of the nature of life. Upon this minority depends our 
power of profiting by the finest human experience of 
the past; they keep alive the subest and most perish 
able parts of tradition. Upon them depend the implicit 
standards that order the finer living of an age, the 
sense that this is worth more than that, this rather than 
that is the direction in which to go, that the centre is 
here rather than there. In their keeping . . . is the 
language, the changing idiom, upon which fine living 
depends, and without which distinction of spirit is 
thwarted and incoherent. By 'culture' I mean the use 
of such a language. 1 

In certain respects this is a new position in the development 
of the idea of Culture. Yet it mainly derives from Arnold, 
whom Leavis quite properly acknowledges as his starting 
point. What goes back to Arnold goes back also to Cole 
ridge but there are significant changes on the way. For 
Coleridge the minority was to be a class, an endowed order 


of clerisy whose business was general cultivation, and 
whose allegiance was to the whole body of sciences. For 
Arnold, the minority was a remnant, composed of individ 
uals to be found in all social classes, whose principal dis 
tinction was that they escaped the limitations of habitual 
class-feeling. For Leavis, the minority is, essentially, a liter 
ary minority, which keeps alive the literary tradition and 
the finest capacities of the language. This development is 
instructive, for the tenuity of the claim to be a 'centre* 
is, unfortunately, increasingly obvious. '"Civilization" and 
"culture" are coming to be antithetical terms/ Leavis writes 
a little later. 2 This is the famous distinction made by Cole 
ridge, and the whole development of this idea of culture 
rests on it. Culture was made into an entity, a positive body 
of achievements and habits, precisely to express a mode of 
living superior to that being brought about by the 'progress 
of civilization'. For Coleridge the defence of this standard 
was to be in the hands of a National Church, including 'the 
learned of all denominations'. Since this could not in fact 
be instituted, the nature of the defending minority had con 
tinually, by the successors of Coleridge, to be redefined. 
The process which Arnold began, when he virtually 
equated 'culture* with 'criticism', is completed by Leavis, 
and had been similarly completed a little earlier, by I. A. 
Richards. Of course Leavis is right when he says that many 
of the 'subtlest and most perishable parts of tradition* are 
contained in our literature and language. But the decline 
from Coleridge's allegiance to all the sciences is unfortu 
nately real. "To science and philosophy in so far as these 
may affect the sense of the human situation and of the na 
ture of life' is surely a little grudging. I agree with Leavis, 
as with Coleridge and Arnold and with Burke the common 
teacher of this point, that a society is poor indeed if it has 
nothing to live by but its own immediate and contemporary 
experience. But the ways in which we can draw on other 
experience are more various than literature alone. For ex 
perience that is formally recorded we go, not only to the 
rich source of literature, but also to history, building, paint 
ing, music, philosophy, theology, political and social theory, 
the physical and natural sciences, anthropology, and indeed 


the whole body of learning. We go also, if we are wise, 
to the experience that is otherwise recorded: in institutions, 

manners, customs, family memories. Literature has a vital 
importance because it is at once a formal record of experi 
ence, and also, in every work, a point of intersection with 
the common language that is, in its major bearings, dif 
ferently perpetuated. The recognition of culture as the body 
of all these activities, and of the ways in which they are 
perpetuated and enter into our common living, was valua 
ble and timely. But there was always the danger that this 
recognition would become not only an abstraction but in 
fact an isolation. To put upon literature, or more accurately 
upon criticism, the responsibility of controlling the quality 
of the whole range of personal and social experience, is to 
expose a vital case to damaging misunderstanding. English 
is properly a central matter of all education, but it is not, 
clearly, a whole education. Similarly, formal education, 
however humane, is not the whole of our gaining of the 
social experience of past and present. In his proposals on 
education (in Education and the University) Leavis makes, 
very clearly, the former point, and few men have done more 
to extend the depth and range of literary studies, and to 
relate them to other interests and other disciplines. But the 
damaging formulation of the nature of the minority re 
mains. Leavis might have written: 

The minority capable not only of appreciating Shake 
speare, the English common law, Lincoln Cathedral, 
committee procedure, PurceE, the nature of wage- 
labour, Hogarth, Hooker, genetic theory, Hume (to 
take major instances) but of recogoMng, either their 
successors, or their contemporary changes and impli 
cations, constitute the consciousness of the race (or of 
a branch of it) at a given time, 

If he had done so (while apologizing for the arbitrariness 
of the selection) , his claim that 'upon this minority depends 
our power of profiting by the Bnest human experience of 
the past' would have been, in some degree, more substan 
tial. It is a matter not so much of theory as of emphasis. 
If, however, he had entered such dangerous lists, the whole 


question of the nature of the minority, of its position in 
society, and of its relations with other human beings, might 
have been forced more clearly into the open. The difficulty 
about the idea of culture is that we are continually forced 
to extend it, until it becomes almost identical with our 
whole common life. When this is realized, the problems to 
which, since Coleridge, we have addressed ourselves are in 
fact transformed. If we are to meet them honestly, we have 
to face very fine and very difficult adjustments. The as 
sumption of a minority, followed by its definition in one's 
own terms, seems in practice to be a way of stopping short 
of this transformation of the problems, and of our own con 
sequent adjustments. The particular view of what is valu 
able is taken, in experience, as a whole; the fixed point 
is determined; and, as in the literary criticism, a myth, 
a significant construction, is persuasively communicated. 
Leavis's myth seems to me rather more powerful than most 
of its competitors, but there is a point in its propagation 
when we begin to see its edges, and the danger, then, is 
that in fact we shall undervalue it. 

For in fact, and against what has previously been said, 
the myth is to a considerable extent adequate, for the pur 
poses to which Leavis actually passes. For he is faced, un 
like Arnold, with the twentieth-century developments of the 
press, advertising, popular fiction, films, broadcasting, and 
that whole way of living for which Middletown (from the 
Lynds* study of an Illinois town) becomes his symbol. The 
critics who first formulated the idea of culture were faced 
with industrialism, and with its causes and consequences in 
thinking and feeling. Leavis, in 1930, faced not only these 
but certain ways of thinking and feeling embodied in im 
mensely powerful institutions which threatened to over 
whelm the ways that he and others valued. His pamphlet, 
given its reference to Richards, is the effective origin of that 
practical criticism of these institutions which has been of 
growing general importance in the last quarter-century. The 
kind of training indicated in Culture and Environment, 
which is an educational manual, has been widely imitated 
and followed, so that if Leavis and his colleagues had done 
only this it would be enough to entitle them to major rec- 


ognition. It is not, of course, that the threat lias been re 
moved; indeed it may even be said to have grown in mag 
nitude. 'That deliberate exploitation ol the cheap response 
which characterises our civilization* is still very widely evi 
dent. But it is not negligible to have instituted a practical 
method of training in discrimination a method which has 
been widely applied and can yet be greatly extended in 
our whole educational system. Because the exploitation is 
deliberate, and because its techniques are so powerful, the 
educational training has to be equally deliberate. And the 
magnificent contrasting vitality of literature is an essential 
control and corollary. 

The Leavis who promoted this kind of work is the Leavis 
of detailed judgements. It is obvious, however, that the 
ways of feeling and thinking embodied in such institutions 
as the popular press, advertising and the cinema cannot 
finally be criticized without reference to a way of life. The 
questions, again, insistently extend. Is the deliberate ex 
ploitation a deliberate pursuit of profit, to the neglect or 
contempt of other considerations? Why, if this is so, should 
cheapness of expression and response be profitable? If our 
civilization is a 'mass-civilization*, without discernible re 
spect for quality and seriousness, by what means has it 
become so? What, in fact, do we mean by 'mass*? Do we 
mean a democracy dependent on universal suffrage, or a 
culture dependent on universal education, or a reading- 
public dependent on universal literacy? If we find the prod 
ucts of mass-civilization so repugnant, are we to identify 
the suffrage or the education or the literacy as the agents 
of decay? Or, alternatively, do we mean by mass-civili 
zation an industrial civilization, dependent on machine- 
production and the factory system? Do we find institutions 
like the popular press and advertising to be the necessary 
consequences of such a system of production? Or, again, 
do we find both the machine-civilization and the institu 
tions to be products of some great change and decline in 
human minds? Such questions, which are the common 
places of our generation, inevitably underlie the detailed 
judgements. And Leavis, though he has never claimed to 
offer a theory of such matters, has in fact, in a number of 


ways, committed himself to certain general attitudes which 
amount to a recognizable attitude towards modern history 
and society. 

The attitude will be quickly recognized by those who 
have followed the growth of the idea of culture. Its main 
immediate sources are D. H. Lawrence (whose relations to 
the earlier tradition have been noted) and the books of 
George Start ('George Bourne'), especially Change in the 
Village and The Wheelwright's Shopwaiks which, while 
original and valuable in their observation, go back, essen 
tially, to Cobbett. A characteristic general statement by 
Leavis and Thompson is the following: 

Sturt speaks of 'the death of Old England and of the 
replacement of the more primitive nation by an "or 
ganized" modem state'. The Old England was the 
England of the organic community, and in what sense 
it was more primitive than the England that has re 
placed it needs pondering. But at the moment what 
we have to consider is the fact that the organic com 
munity has gone; it has so nearly disappeared from 
memory that to make anyone, however educated, re 
alize what it was is commonly a difficult undertaking. 
Its destruction (in the West) is the most important 
fact of recent historyit is very recent indeed. How 
did this momentous change this vast and terrifying 
disintegration take place in so short a time? The proc 
ess of the change is that which is commonly described 
as Progress. 3 

Several points in this are obscure: in particular, the exact 
weight of the adjective organic and its apparent contrast 
with organized (see note at the end of this chapter). But 
it seems clear, from the examples quoted in support, that 
the 'momentous change' is the Industrial Revolution. The 
'organic community* is a rural community: 

The more 'primitive* England represented an animal 
naturalness, but distinctively human. Sturf s villagers 
expressed their human nature, they satisfied their hu 
man needs, in terms of the natural environment; and 


the things they made cottages, bams, ricks, and wag 
gonstogether with their relations with one another 
constituted a human environment, and a subtlety of 
adjustment and adaptation, as right and inevitable 

In contrast with this way of life is set the urban, suburban, 
mechanized modernity, on which such comments as these 
are possible: 

The modem labourer, the modern clerk, the modern 
factory-hand live only for their leisure, and the result 
is that they are unable to live in their leisure when 
they get it. Their work is meaningless to them, merely 
something they have to do in order to earn a livelihood, 
and consequently when their leisure comes It is mean 
ingless, and all the uses they can put it to come almost 
wholly under the head of what Stuart Chase calls 
'decreation*. . . . 5 

. . . The modern citizen no more knows how the nec 
essaries of life come to him (he is quite out of touch, 
we say, with 'primary production*) than he can see his 
own work as a significant part in a human scheme (he 
is merely earning wages or making profits). 6 

The points are familiar, but it is impossible to feel them to 
be adequate. The version of history is myth in the sense 
of conjecture, for while on such points as the adaptation 
to natural environment shown in building and tools, or on 
the related point about such traditional crafts as the car 
penter's, it is possible, on the whole, to agree, it is a very 
different matter to assert, for instance, that the Tiuman en 
vironment . . . their relations with one another' was in fact 
'right and inevitable'. This is, I think, a surrender to a char 
acteristically industrialist, or urban, nostalgia a late version 
of mediaevalism, with its attachments to an 'adjusted' feudal 
society. If there is one thing certain about 'the organic com 
munity*, it is that it has always gone. Its period, in the con 
temporary myth, is the rural eighteenth century; but for 
Goldsmith, in The Deserted Village (i77)> it had gone; 
for Crabbe, in The Village ( 1783) , it was hardly 'right and 

2/8 CULTUHE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

inevitable'; for Cobbett, in 1820, it had gone since his boy 
hood (that is to say, it existed when Goldsmith and Crabbe 
were writing) ; for Start it was there until late in the nine 
teenth century; for myself (if I may be permitted to add 
this, for I was bom into a village, and into a family of many 
generations of farm-labourers) it was there or the aspects 
quoted, the inherited skills of work, the slow traditional 
talk, the continuity of work and leisure in the 19305. What 
is being observed, and what, when rightly weighted, is im 
portant, is an important tradition of social and productive 
experience that has grown out of certain long-persistent 
conditions. It is useful to contrast this with the difficulties 
of comparable richness of adjustment to the urban and fac 
tory conditions of which experience is so much shorter. But 
it is misleading to make this contrast without making others, 
and it is foolish and dangerous to exclude from the so-called 
organic society the penury, the petty tyranny, the disease 
and mortality, the ignorance and frustrated intelligence 
which were also among its ingredients. These are not ma 
terial disadvantages to be set against spiritual advantages; 
the one thing that such a community teaches is that life is 
whole and continuous it is the whole complex that matters. 
That which is commonly described as Progress' saved spirit 
and blood. 

The basic intellectual fault of such formulations as that 
in Culture and Environment is, curiously, the taking of as 
pects for wholes. A valid detailed judgement grows too 
quicldy into a persuasive outline. The tendency to reduce 
experience to literary evidence alone is commonly tempting. 
Middletown is a frightening book; many advertisements and 
many newspapers are cheap and nasty. But do we not too 
easily construct from such evidence a contemptuous version 
of the lives of our contemporaries, which we should be hard 
put to it to prove from life, although we could prove it easily 
enough, or so it would seem, from print? Is it true, for in 
stance, that to 'the modern labourer, the modem clerk, the 
modern factory-hand' all their work is 'meaningless*, except 
as a means to money? Is it true that 'all die uses they can 
put* their leisure to are almost wholly 'decreation? Is it true 
that 'the modem citizen* hardly knows liow the necessaries 


of life come to him? What is true, I would argue, is that a 
number of new kinds of unsatisfying work have come into 
existence; a number of new kinds of cheap entertainment; 
and a number of new kinds of social division. Against these 
must be set a number of new kinds of satisfying work; cer 
tain evident improvements, and new opportunities, in edu 
cation; certain important new kinds of social organization. 
Between all these and other factors, the balance has to be 
more finely drawn than the myth allows. 

My reason for making these points in relation to Leavis's 
work, when they might equally have been made about 
other work where the myth is more palpable, and, on oc 
casion, more sentimentally misleading, is that, in the case 
of Leavis, these elements have become as it seems inex 
tricably entangled with the advocacy of educational pro 
posals that are wholly valuable. Culture and Environment 
makes certain reservations: 'we must beware of simple solu 
tions . , . there can be no mere going back ... the mem 
ory of the old order must be the chief incitement towards 
a new'. 7 These are useful, and serve to introduce the pri 
mary stress on an education that will seek to control the 
disintegrating and cheapening forces, both by direct 'de 
fensive' training, and by that positive training in experience 
which literature is qualified to offer. The making and ex 
tension of such an education are so vital that one regrets 
the inclusion, in this advocacy, of social conclusions and 
attitudes which are, to say the least, doubtful. The point 
must be referred back to the earlier point about the nature 
of the 'minority*. Leavis might reasonably reply, to what I 
have there written, that to see literature as a specialism 
among others is not to see literature at all. I would agree 
with this. But the emphasis I am trying to make is that, 
in the work of continuity and change, and just because of 
the elements of disintegration, we cannot make literary ex 
perience the sole test, or even the central test. We cannot 
even, I would argue, put the important stress on the 'mi 
nority*, for the idea of the conscious minority is itself no 
more than a defensive symptom, against the general dan 
gers. When Eliot combines the idea of a minority culture 
with his rejection of the ideas of democracy, he is on more 

280 cui/nuHE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

consistent, If certainly sourer, ground. Leavis, having made 
the vital connexion between a whole way of life and the 
capacity for valuable literary experience, is surely bound, 
for anything beyond the immediately necessary defensive 
measures, to a conception of the growth of a society, and 
its whole way of life, which should more adequately em 
body such lands of experience. It is not so much a matter 
of announcing some political allegiance. It is a matter, 
rather, in our whole social experience, of declaring that 
'this is worth more than that, this rather than that is the 
direction in which to go'. The difficulties are obvious, but 
I suspect that they are impossibly increased by continued 
allegiance to an outline of history which tends to suggest 
that 'what is commonly described as Progress' is almost 
wholly decline. 

As I have understood Leavis's subsequent work, he has 
chosen to concentrate, on the one hand on persistent de 
fensive actions, on the other hand, in criticism, on such 
re-creation as is possible. As a life's work (and one as yet 
unfinished) it has been a major achievement. Others have 
taken over the criticism of the popular press, advertising, 
the cinema and so on which is now almost a commonplace. 
Leavis, most valuably, has gone on with his criticism of 
some of the apparent alternatives to these: the ^better' press, 
the *better' books. He has also, notably in his defence of 
Lawrence, come much nearer to acknowledging important 
elements in post-Industrial English society, which the out 
lines of Culture and Environment neglected. In his com 
ments on Bunyan, on Dickens and on Mark Twain he has 
made a more positive theoretical commitment to actual and 
general social experience than the concept of a defensive 
minority (whose social experience is mainly from the past) 
seemed to allow. He has attacked what he calls the domina 
tion of the world of English letters by a small interlocking 
group, and has reduced to its proper impotence the ordi 
nary conception of a superior minority which happens to 
coincide with a particular social class. He has, at the same 
time, continued to attack the Marxist version of a social 
alternative: intellectually, on the grounds of its abstraction; 
socially, on the nature of its realization in Russia. All this 


has brought him many enemies, but he has kept his course. 
And it is not so much, now, a matter of assessing his own 
life's work, as of assessing the value of the directions which 
he has initiated. I can only say, in conclusion, that the ex 
tremely valuable educational proposals, and the important 
and illuminating local judgements, which are real gains, 
have to be set against losses, some of which are serious. 
The concept of a cultivated minority, set over against a 
Recreated* mass, tends, in its assertion, to a damaging ar 
rogance and scepticism. The concept of a wholly organic 
and satisfying past, to be set against a disintegrated and 
dissatisfying present, tends in its neglect of history to a de 
nial of real social experience. The cultural training ought 
essentially to be a training in democracy, which has to be 
a training in direct judgements. Yet the contingent elements 
in the myth have led, at worst to a pseudo-aristocratic au 
thoritarianism, at best to a habitual scepticism which has 
shown itself very intolerant of any contemporary social com 
mitment. Leavis's distinction as a critic, and Ms equal dis 
tinction as a teacher, are unquestioned. But it is al the 
more necessary, if the distinction is to be insisted upon, to 
realize the inadequacies and the dangers of what is now 
the 'minority culture* dogma. 

A Note on 'Organic* 

Few English words are more difficult than 'organic*, which 
has a vast and complicated semantic history. The Greek 
opyovov first meant 'tool' or 'instrument", and opyoviKoq 
was equivalent to our 'mechanical*. But there was a de 
rived sense of 'physical organ' (the eye an ^instrument for 
seeing') and on this the whole association with living be 
ings was subsequently made. In English, 'mechanical' and 
'organicaF are synonyms in the sixteenth century, but in 
the eighteenth century the physical and biological refer 
ences begin to predominate. Then in Burke and Coleridge, 
'organic* begins to be used to describe institutions and so 
cieties, and one of the senses of 'mechanical' ( = 'artificial') 
is used to establish a now familiar contrast. The contrast 


is then extended into the 'organ' family itself: 'organ' = "or 
gan of sense', giving rise to praise-words such as 'organic' 
and 'organism', while 'organ' = 'instrument' produces 'or 
ganize' and 'organization'. Burke used 'organic' and 'organ 
ized' as synonyms, but by the middle nineteenth century 
they are commonly opposed ('natural' vs. 'planned' society, 


There are five apparent reasons why 'organic' became 
popular: to stress an idea of 'wholeness* in society; to stress 
the growth of a 'people*, as in rising nationalisms; to stress 
'natural growth', as in 'culture', with particular reference 
to slow change and adaptation; to reject 'mechanist' and 
'materialist' versions of society; to criticize industrialism, in 
favour of a society 'in close touch with natural processes' 
(i.e. agriculture). The range is too wide and too tempting 
to be ordinarily scanned, and the word is now commonly 
used by writers of wholly opposed opinions: e.g. Marxists 
stressing 'a whole, formed State'; Conservatives 'a slowly 
adapting society and tradition'; critics of machine-produc 
tion *a predominantly agricultural society'; Bertrand Rus 
sell, on the other hand, *a predominantly industrial society': 
Vhen we are exhorted to make society "organize", it is from 
machinery that we shall necessarily derive our models, since 
we do not know how to make society a living animal' (Pros 
pects of Industrial Civilization) . At the very least, this com 
plication indicates the need for caution in using the word 
without immediate definition. Perhaps all societies are or 
ganic (i.e. formed wholes) , but some are more organic (ag 
ricultural/industrial than others. 



MARX was the contemporary of Ruskin and George Eliot, 
but the Marxist interpretation of culture did not become 
widely effective in England until the 'thirties of our own 
century. William Morris had linked the cause of ait with 
the cause of socialism, and his socialism was of the revolu 
tionary Marxist kind. But the terms of Morris's position were 
older, an inheritance from the general tradition which came 
down to him through Ruskin. As he told the Northumber 
land miners, in 1887: 

Even supposing he did not understand that there was 
a definite reason in economics, and that the whole sys 
tem could be changed ... he for one would be a rebel 
against it. 1 

The economic reasoning, and the political promise., came 
to him from Marxism; the general rebellion was in older 

Marx himself outlined, but never fully developed, a cul 
tural theory. His casual comments on literature, for exam 
ple, are those of a learned, intelligent man of his period, 
rather than what we now know as Marxist literary criticism. 
On occasion, his extraordinary social insight extends a com 
ment, but one never feels that he is applying a theory. Not 
only is the tone of his discussion of these matters normally 
undogmatic, but also he is quick to restrain, whether in 
literary theory or practice, what he evidently regarded as 
an over-enthusiastic, mechanical extension of his political, 
economic and historical conclusions to other kinds of fact. 
Engels, though habitually less cautious, is very similar in 
tone. This is not to say, of course, that Marx lacked confi 
dence in the eventual extension of such conclusions, or in 
the filling-in of his outline. It is only that his genius recog- 


nized difficulty and complexity, and that Ms personal disci 
pline was a discipline to fact. 

The outline which Marx drew, and which has proved to 
be so fruitful and Important, appears most clearly in the 
Preface to Ms Critique of Political Economy (1859) : 

In the social production wMch men carry on they enter 
into definite relations that are indispensable and inde 
pendent of their will; these relations of production cor 
respond to a definite stage of development of their ma 
terial powers of production. The sum total of these 
relations of production constitutes the economic struc 
ture of society the real foundation, on wMch rise legal 
and political superstructures and to wMch correspond 
definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of pro 
duction in material life determines the general charac 
ter of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. 
It is not the consciousness of men that determines their 
existence,, but, on the contrary, their social existence 
determines their consciousness. . . . With the change 
of the economic foundation the entire immense super 
structure is more or less rapidly transformed. In con 
sidering such transformations the distinction should al 
ways be made between the material transformation of 
the economic conditions of production wMch can be 
determined with the precision of natural science, and 
the legal, political, religious, aesthetic, or phflosopMc 
in short, ideological forms in wMch men become con 
scious of this conflict and fight it out. 2 

The distinction mentioned is obviously of great importance. 
Even if we accept the formula of structure and superstruc 
ture, we have Maxafs word that changes in the latter are 
necessarily subject to a different and less precise mode of 
investigation. The point is reinforced by the verbal qualifi 
cations of Ms text: "detenmnes the general character"; 'more 
or less rapidly transformed'. The superstructure is a matter 
of human consciousness, and this is necessarily very com 
plex, not only because of its diversity, but also because it 
is always historical: at any time, it includes continuities 
from the past as well as reactions to the present. Marx in- 


deed at times regards ideology as a false consciousness: a 
system of continuities which change has in fact undermined. 
He writes in The Eighteenth Bmmaire; 

Upon the several forms of property, upon the so 
cial conditions of existence, a whole superstructure is 
reared of various and peculiarly shaped feelings, Illu 
sions, habits of thought, and conceptions of life. The 
whole class produces and shapes these out of its ma 
terial foundation and out of the corresponding social 
conditions. The individual unit to whom they flow 
through tradition and education may fancy that they 
constitute the true reasons for and premises of his 
conduct. 3 

If then a part of the superstructure is mere rationalization, 
the complexity of the whole is further increased. 

This recognition of complexity is the first control in any 
valid attempt at a Marxist theory of culture. The second 
control, more controversial, is an understanding of the for 
mula of structure and superstructure. In Marx this formula 
is definite, but perhaps as no more than an analogy. Cer 
tainly when we come to this comment by Engels there is 
need to reconsider: 

According to the materialist conception of history, the 
determining element in history is ultimately the pro 
duction and reproduction in real life. More than this 
neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. If therefore 
somebody twists this into the statement that the eco 
nomic element is the only determining one, he trans 
forms it into a meaningless, abstract and absurd 
phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the 
various elements of the superstructure political forms 
of the class struggle and its consequences, constitutions 
established by the victorious class after a successful 
battle, etc. forms of law and then even the reflexes 
of all these actual struggles in the brains of the com 
batants: political, legal, and philosophical theories, re 
ligious ideas and their further development into sys 
tems of dogma also exercise their influence upon the 


course of the historical struggles and in many cases 
preponderate in determining their form. There is an 
interaction of all these elements, in which, amid all 
the endless host of accidents (i.e. of things and events 
whose inner connection is so remote or so impossible 
to prove that we regard it as absent and can neglect 
it) the economic element finally asserts itself as neces 
sary. Otherwise the application of the theory to any 
period of history one chose would be easier than the 
solution of a simple equation of the first degree. 4 

Here again the emphasis falls on complexity, but the result 
of the emphasis is a lessening of the usefulness of the 
formula which Marx used. Structure and superstructure, as 
terms of an analogy, express at once an absolute and a fixed 
relationship. But the reality which Marx and Engels recog 
nize is both less absolute and less clear. Engels virtually 
introduces three levels of reality: the economic situation; 
the political situation; the state of theory. Yet any formula 
in terms of levels, as in terms of structure and superstruc 
ture, does less than justice to the factors of movement which 
it is the essence of Marxism to realize. We arrive at a dif 
ferent model, in which reality is seen as a very complex 
field of movement, within which the economic forces finally 
reveal themselves as the organizing element. 

Engels uses the word 'interaction*, but this does not im 
ply any withdrawal of the claims for economic primacy. 
The point is clearly made by Plekhanov, in The Develop 
ment of the Monist Theory of History ( 1895) : 

Interaction exists * . . nevertheless, by itself it explains 

nothing. In order to understand interaction, one must 
ascertain the attributes of the interacting forces and 
these attributes cannot find their ultimate explanation 
in the fact of interaction, however much they may 
change thanks to that fact. . . . The qualities of the 
interacting forces, tihe attributes of the social organisms 
influencing one another, are explained in the long run 
by the cause we already know: the economic structure 
of these organisms, which is determined by the state 
of their productive forces. 9 


Plekhanov concedes that there are 'particular laws . . in 
the development of human thought'; Marxists will not, for 
example, identify 'the laws of logic with the laws of the 
circulation of commodities*. All that a Marxist will deny is 
that the laws of thought' are the prime mover of intellec 
tual development; the prime mover is economic change. He 

Sensitive but weak-headed people are indignant with 
the theory of Marx because they take its first word to 
be its last. Marx says: in explaining the subject, let us 
see in what mutual relations people enter under the 
influence of objective necessity. Once these relations 
are known, it will be possible to ascertain how human 
self-consciousness develops under their influence. . . . 
Psychology adapts itself to economy. But this adapta 
tion is a complex process ... on the one hand the 
Iron laws' of movement of the 'string 7 ... on the other, 
on the 'string* and precisely thanks to its movement, 
there grows up the 'garment of life' of ideology. 6 

Evidently Plekhanov is searching here (not altogether suc 
cessfully) for a model more satisfactory than structure and 
superstructure. He is aware of Marx's reservation about the 
study of ideas, and admits: 

Much, very much, is still obscure for us in this sphere. 
But there is even more that is obscure for the idealists, 
and yet more for eclectics, who however never under 
stand the significance of the difficulties they encounter, 
imagining that they will always be able to settle any 
question with the help of their notorious 'interaction'. 
In reality, they never settle anything, but only hide 
behind the back of the difficulties they encounter. 7 

There is then an interaction, but this cannot be positively 
understood unless the organizing force of the economic ele 
ment is recognized. A Marxist theory of culture will rec 
ognize diversity and complexity, will take account of con 
tinuity within change, will allow for chance and certain 
limited autonomies, but, with these reservations, will take 
the facts of the economic structure and the consequent so- 

288 CULTOTE AMD SOCIETY 1780-1950 

cial relations as the guiding string on which a culture is 
woven, and by following which a culture is to be under 
stood. This, still an emphasis rather than a substantiated 
theory, is what Marxists of our own century received from 
their tradition. 


Marxist writing in England in the last thirty years has 
been very mixed in both quality and occasion. The political 
writing of the 'thirties was primarily a response to actual 
conditions in England and Europe, rather than a conscious 
development of Marxist studies. The conditions justified the 
response, even where it fell short of adequacy. But the re 
sult was that many English readers made their first ac 
quaintance with Marxist theory in writings that were in 
fact local and temporary, both in affiliation and intention. 
It has of course been possible to compile from these the 
kind of fools* gallery which always appears in any general 
movement. I cannot see that this kind of smoking-out is 
fair dealing with Marxism as such, but equally it is as well 
for Marxists to remember that very many mistakes were 
made, and that these are less easy to forgive because of 
the tone of dogmatic infallibility which characterized some 
of the most popular writings. A collection of essays like 
The Mind in Chains was always mixed in quality, but it is 
now most clearly marked by its temporary character the 
very thing which at the time must have seemed to guaran 
tee its sense of reality. We are told in the Introduction that 
the T)elie which runs like a backbone through the whole 
of this book' 8 is R. E. Warner's conclusion; 

Capitalism has no further use for culture. On the one 
hand, the material stagnation of capitalism brings it 
about that fewer and fewer scholars, scientists, and 
technicians are required for the process of production. 
On the other hand, being no longer able to represent 
itself as a progressive force, capitalism can no longer 
invite the support of the general ideals of culture and 


The general point Is familiar, but capitalism, in its powers 
of recovery, even if indeed these are only temporary, was 
quite evidently underestimated, with the result that a whole 
set of attitudes, consequent on experience of depression, fell 
when the economic situation changed. Almost every kind of 
political prophecy has been wrong, but the Marxist claim 
to special insight into these matters of the life and death of 
an economic system makes concession of error less easy. 
Statements like that quoted above have, in general, not been 
reargued or revised, but merely dropped. 

Yet Warner's general point about culture is reasonable: 

The progress of culture is dependent on the progress of 
the material conditions for culture; and, in particular, 
the social organization of any period of history limits 
the cultural possibilities of that period. Yet all through 
history there is a constant interaction between culture 
and social organization. Culture, it is true, cannot go 
beyond what is possible, but social organization can 
and does lag behind what, from the point of view of 
culture, is both possible and desirable. There is a con 
tinuity both between various forms of social organiza 
tion and various forms of culture, but the cultural 
continuity is the more marked because, for one thing, 
it is easier to envisage possibilities than to put them 
into practice, and also because change and progress 
in society have always been resisted for as long as 
possible by those interested persons who, being for the 
moment at the top, stand to lose by any readjustment 
within the whole. We find that, at those periods of 
history when a change of social organization is nec 
essary, culture comes into opposition to the time- 
honoured standards of society, standards which, by the 
way, were elevated and properly honoured by the cul 
ture of the past, but which have proved inadequate 
and uninspiring for a further advance into the fu 
ture. 10 

This is obviously relevant to the development of ideas and 
feelings, traced hitherto, which gave us the modern mean 
ings of 'culture'. But I am not sure whether this is indeed 

290 GUI/TUBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

a Marxist interpretation. While recognizing the material 
basis of culture, it seems to come very near to an Arnoldian 
definition, in which culture can be in advance of the eco 
nomic and social organization, ideally embodying the fu 
ture. In many Englishmen writing as Marxists I have 
noticed this. A tradition basically proceeding from the Ro 
mantics, and coming down through Arnold and Morris, has 
been supplemented by certain phrases from Marx, while 
continuing to operate in the older terms. Much of the 
'Marxist' writing of the 'thirties was in fact the old Roman 
tic protest that there was no place in contemporary society 
for the artist and the intellectual, with the new subsidiary 
clause that the workers were about to end the old system 
and establish Socialism, which would then provide such a 
place. The correlative protests against unemployment, pov 
erty and Fascism were genuine; but the making-over of the 
workers' cause into the intellectuals' cause was always likely 
to collapse: either as the intellectuals found a place in dif 
ferent ways, or as the workers' cause asserted its primacy 
and moved in directions not so immediately acceptable or 
favourable. In seeing the literary Marxism of the 'thirties, 
in its general aspects, as a new case of the 'negative identifi 
cation' described in relation to Gissing, I have of course the 
advantage of hindsight: it is a characteristic of the negative 
identification that it breaks up at points of real social crisis 
and reacts into an indifference to politics, recantation, or 
sometimes violent assault on the cause that has been aban 
doned. Because I believe tihis to be a law, its actions sub 
ject to the immense pressures of society, I have no desire 
to rehearse personalities. I note only the fact that 'culture' 
was not so far ahead, not so firmly affiliated to the future, 
as was then thought. 

Alick West's Crisis and Criticism (1937) includes an 
account of the continuity between Romantic and Marxist 
ideas. He writes: 

Romantic criticism was a great achievement. Its con 
ception of social relations as constituting beauty in art, 
of a conflict and antagonism in these relations and of 
the same conflict reconciled in art, of poetry as the 


voice of humanity against oppression and injustice and 
of the duty of the poets to cooperate in ending them 
all these ideas are of the highest value. Instead of abus 
ing them, or divorcing them from their social meaning, 
or preserving only their idealism, we have to use them. 
We cannot use them simply as they stand, because of 
that idealism. As indicated earlier, the romantic poets 
were unable in their particular circumstances to give a 
material meaning to their social conceptions. . . . 
Hence, in romantic criticism, the social relations which 
constitute beauty in art are not the actual social rela 
tions, but the conception of the relations. 11 

It is certainly true that the abstractions of Art and Culture 
were a substitute for satisfactory social relations, both in 
art itself and in general living. It is also true that the most 
evident weakness of the subsequent tradition was its fail 
ure to find any adequate social force by means of which the 
"superior reality* of Art and Culture might be established 
and maintained. West, from his analysis, argues that Marx 
transformed Romantic idealism by giving it the content of 
material social relations. It is true at least that Morris, learn 
ing from Marx, found what he took to be a social force 
adequate to these ends in the working-class struggle for so 
cialism. Yet this is not necessarily the Marxist way of put 
ting the matter. E. P. Thompson, giving a recent Maoist 
account of Morris, writes: 

While this dialectical understanding of change, 
growth and decay was ever-present in his writing, he 
saw man's economic and social development always as 
the master-process, and tended to suggest that the arts 
were passively dependent upon social change. . . . 
Morris has not emphasized sufficiently the ideological 
r61e of art, its active agency in changing human beings 
and society as a whole, its agency in man's class- 
divided history. 12 

The question is very difficult, but it is surely surprising to 
find a Marxist criticizing Morris for seeing 'man's economic 
and social development always as the master-process'. It 


has normally been assumed that this was precisely what 
Marx taught, and the position that Marxists wished to de 
fend. One had understood that the arts were 'dependent 
upon social change'; but perhaps 'passively dependent' 
makes the difference. Morris sometimes suggested that the 
cause of art must wait upon the success of socialism, and 
this (though it is purely an argument in the head: art of 
one kind or another in any case goes on being produced) 
may well be wrong. But wrong in what sense? That art 
is not subject to so simple an equation, as most non- 
Marxists would say? That good art can be produced in the 
struggle as well as in the success, which English Marxists, 
for obvious reasons, seem to wish to establish? The point 
is only of general interest in its bearings upon the basic 
Marxist position. Morris's 'master-process', which Thomp 
son criticizes, is surely Marx's 'real foundation', which 'de 
termines consciousness'. Engels spoke of 'the relexes of all 
these actual straggles in the brains of the combatants"; 
surely, on a Maoist reading, art is one of these reflexes, 
Such reflexes, Engels said, 'exercise their influence upon 
the course of the historical struggles and in many cases 
preponderate in determing their form*. 'But only the 
form/ 13 insists Ralph Fox, in The Novel and the People, 
another Marxist view of literature. In what Marxist sense, 
then, has art this 'active agency in changing human beings 
and society as a whole? Marx and Engels did not deny the 
effect of the 'relexes' back upon the whole situation, but 
that one of themart might act to change 'human beings 
and society as a whole' is hardly consistent with their kind 
of emphasis. That art has this function is, however, a com 
monplace of the Romantic attitude: the poet as legislator. 
One had understood from West, however, that this was an 
idealist attitude based on an ignorance of social reality. It 
certainly seems relevant to ask English Marxists who have 
interested themselves in the arts whether this is not Ro 
manticism absorbing Marx, rather than Marx transforming 
Romanticism. It is a matter of opinion which one would 
prefer to happen. Yet, in one way or another, the situation 
will have to be clarified. Either the arts are passively de 
pendent on social reality, a proposition which I take to be 


that of mechanical materialism, or a vulgar misinterpreta 
tion of Marx. Or the arts, as the creators of consciousness, 
determine social reality, the proposition which the Roman 
tic poets sometimes advanced. Or finally, the arts, while 
ultimately dependent, with everything else, on the real eco 
nomic structure, operate in part to relect this structure and 
its consequent reality, and in part, by affecting attitudes 
towards reality, to help or hinder the constant business of 
changing it. I find Marxist theories of culture confused be 
cause they seem to me, on different occasions and in dif 
ferent writers, to make use of all these propositions as the 
need serves. 

It is clear that many English writers on culture who are 
also, politically, Marxists seem primarily concerned to make 
out a case for its existence, to argue that it is important, 
against a known reaction to Marxism which had established 
the idea that Marx, with his theory of structure and super 
structure, had diminished the value hitherto accorded to 
intellectual and imaginative creation. Certainly there has 
been a quite shocking ignorance of what Marx wrote among 
those who have been prepared to criticize him, and the 
term 'superstructure' has been bandied about, as a kind of 
swearword, with wholly ridiculous implications. Political 
prejudice, obviously, has played its part in this. Yet I do 
not see how it can be denied that Marx did in one sense 
diminish the value of such work: not that he failed to re 
spect it, and to consider it a great and important human 
achievement, but he denied, what had hitherto been com 
monly believed, that it was this kind of work that decided 
human development: *it is not the consciousness of men that 
determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their exist 
ence determines their consciousness*. The shock of this, to 
thinkers and artists who had been accustomed to think of 
themselves as the pioneers of humanity, was real; it was a 
change of status comparable to that implied for men gen 
erally by Darwin. Much of the subsequent development of 
Marxism, it would seem, has been determined, in the mat 
ter of culture, by this reaction. It had to be shown that 
Marxists gave a high value to culture, although this proof 
that culture was important seemed, to other thinkers at 


least, unnecessary. It remains surprising, to others differ 
ently trained, that the normal Marxist book on, say, litera 
ture begins with a proof that literature is valuable: this had 
never seemed to be in any question, and one is reminded of 
Mill making the same point to the Utilitarians. But, while 
some of this writing can only be understood in such terms, 
a theory of culture was, of course, necessary, to the extent 
that Marxism became a major interpretative and active 
movement. Not only, it was thought, had past and present 
culture to be interpreted, in Marxist terms, but so also (and 
this has been very prevalent, although whether it is alto 
gether Marxist is doubtful) future culture had to be pre 
dicted. In England, this work has been mainly done in re 
lation to literature, and we must consider its nature. 

The normal theoretical beginning is from the nature of 
language, as here in West: 

Language . . . grew as a form of social organization. 
Literature as art continues that growth. It Hves lan 
guage; it carries on the social activity of which lan 
guage in its very existence is the creation and the 
creator. 14 

Here we are at once involved in the extremely complicated 
question of the origins of language. West relies on Noire, 
Paget and Marr; Caudwell, in Illusion and "Reality, on as 
sertion, which seems to derive from Darwin via Paget, but 
also from de Laguna, Linguistic theory is at once very spe 
cialized and very controversial, and the question of origins 
is necessarily to some extent speculative. A general stress 
on the social character of language can be readily accepted, 
and it would seem that, in practice, language does operate 
as a form of social organization, and that what it represents 
is an activity rather than a mere deposit. But the end of 
West's argument is already assumed in the special and ex 
tremely controversial senses in which he understands 'or 
ganization* and 'activity'. He continues: 

the source of value in the work of literature is the social 
energy and activity which makes the writer's vision a 
continuation of the development of the power to see, 


his use o language a continuation of ... the power 

to speak; and not merely the consumer's use of what 
society has already produced. Our perception of that 
value is the stimulation in us of the same social energy 
and activity. 15 

This is saying much less than it seems to say. I cannot im 
agine anyone whom the middle phrases would surprise. 
And again, the end of the argument is assumed in the form 
of words. For West can now continue: 

The value of literature springs from the fact that it 
continues and changes the organization of social en 
ergy; we perceive value through the awakening of the 
same kind of energy in ourselves. 16 

And from this it is easy to identify valuable literature with 
that which proceeds from participation in 'the most active 
group and tendency of his time', and then, in contemporary 
terms, with the 'most creative movement . . . socialism'. 


the criticism of our lives, by the test of whether we are 
helping forward the most creative movement in our 
society, is the only effective foundation of the criticism 

of literature. 17 

From this it is only a step (although West, to do him jus 
tice, does not take it, insisting on the reality of aesthetic 

judgement) to the kind of literary criticism which has made 
Marxism notorious: Is this work socialist or not in tend 
ency? is it helping forward the most creative movement in 
society?' where literature is defined solely in terms of its 
political affiliations. Marxists, more than anyone else, need 
to repudiate this land of end-product, in practice as firmly 
as in theory. But one can see how a potentially valuable 
argument is distorted, throughout, by an assumed need to 
arrive at this kind of conclusion, or at one resembling it. 
It is a conclusion, moreover, with which there seems no 
need for Marx to be saddled. Literature is quite obviously, 
in the general sense, a social activity, and value does seem 
to lie in the writer's access to certain kinds of energy which 


appear and can be discussed in directly literary terms (that 
is to say, as an intention that has become language), but 
which, by general agreement, have a more-than-Iiterary 
origin, and lie in the whole complex of a writer's relations 
with reality. It is the identification of this energy with par 
ticipation in a particular kind of social or political activity 
which is, to say the least, not proven. The positive evidence, 
where this kind of energy is manifest, suggests no such sim 
ple equation. 

Christopher Caudwell remains the best-known of these 
English Marxist critics, but his influence is curious. His the 
ories and outlines have been widely learned, although in 
fact he has little to say, of actual literature, that is even 
interesting. It is not only that it is difficult to have confi 
dence in the literary qualifications of anyone who can give 
his account of the development of mediaeval into Eliza 
bethan drama, 18 or who can make his paraphrase of the 
'sleep* line from Macbeth, 1 but that for the most part his 
discussion is not even specific enough to be wrong. On the 
other hand, he is immensely prolific of ideas, over an un 
usually wide field of interest. It is now rather difficult to 
know which of these ideas may properly be described as 
Marxist. A recent controversy among English Marxists, on 
the value of CaudwelTs work, revealed an extraordinary dif 
ference of opinion, ranging from George Thomson's view 
that Illusion and Reality is 'the first comprehensive attempt 
to work out a Marxist theory of art', 20 with the implication 
of major success, to J. D. Denial's conclusion: 

It is largely on account of his use of the language of 

popular science that CaudwelTs work has had, and still 
has, such an appeal to intellectuals, particularly to lit 
erary intellectuals. 21 

Bernal adds that the formulations in CaudwelTs books 

are those of contemporary bourgeois scientific philoso 
phy . . . and not those of Marxism. 22 

This is a quarrel which one who is not a Marxist will not 
attempt to resolve. 
It is worth noting, however, that the hub of the Marxist 


controversy about Caudwell is very much the problem that 
has been discussed in the preceding pages. It is a matter of 
some importance that a number of writers, convinced of 
the economic and political usefulness of Marxism, have, in 
their attempts to account for the work of the 'superstruc 
ture*, and in particular for the imaginative work of the arts, 
turned with some consistency to what other Marxists de 
scribe as an 'idealist muddle'. The difficulty comes down 
to one major point, which may be introduced by CaudwelTs 
definition of the value of art: 

The value of art to society is that by it an emotional 
adaptation is possible. Man's instincts are pressed in 
art against the altered mould of reality, and by a spe 
cific organization of the emotions thus generated, there 
is a new attitude, an adaptation. 23 

The process of this, in the artist, is thus described: 

The artist is continually besieged by new feelings 
as yet unformulated, he continually attempts to grasp 
beauties and emotions not yet known; a tension be 
tween tradition and experience is constantly felt in his 
heart. Just as the scientist is the explorer of new realms 
of outer reality; the artist continually discovers new 
kingdoms of the heart. Both therefore are explorers, 
and necessarily therefore share a certain loneliness. 
But if they are individualists, it is not because they 
are non-social, but precisely because they are perform 
ing a social task. They are non-social only in this sense, 
that they are engaged in dragging into the social world 
realms at present non-social and must therefore have 
a foot in both worlds. 24 

What these two worlds are, in CaudwelTs view, is the basic 
controversy. In Illusion and Reality, he wrote: 

The link between science and art, the reason they can 
live in the same language, is this: the subject of action 
is the same as the subject of cognition the genotype. 
The object of action is the same as the object of cogni 
tionexternal reality. Since the genotype is a part of 


reality, although it finds itself set up against another 
part of It, the two interact; there is development; man's 
thought and man's society have a history. 25 
It would certainly seem, at first sight, that this version of 
the 'genotype* interacting with 'external reality' is some way 
from Marx, and this is so not only in Caudweffs first writ 
ings, but, in the phrase about *both worlds', in the late es 
say on Beauty. In effect, in writing of this Mud, it would 
seem that Marx's basic conception of the relation between 
'the real foundation' and 'consciousness', and hence between 
structure and superstructure, is being revalued. The point 
emerges, in practice, as a controversy about the rdle of art, 
and thence of culture (intellectual and imaginative work) 
generally. There is a clear controversy between the advo 
cates of 'realism' (an analytical and synthetic embodiment 
of, in Engels' words, 'typical characters in typical circum 
stances', where the adequate 'reflex* of reality is seen as the 
purpose of art) and, on the other hand, those who add to 
this an additional clause, as here in Gorki: 

Myth is invention. To invent means to extract from the 
sum of a given reality its cardinal idea and embody it 
in imagery that is how we get realism. But if to the 
idea extracted from the given reality we add complet 
ing the idea by the logic of hypothesis the desired, 
the possible, and thus supplement the image, we ob 
tain that romanticism which is at the basis of myth, 
and is highly beneficial in that it tends to provoke 
a revolutionary attitude to reality, an attitude that 
changes the world in a practical way. 20 

This, I take it, is the advance of realism to 'socialist realism', 
for it is presumably only if 'the desired, the possible' is so 
cialist that the 'revolutionary attitude to reality" will be pro 
voked. The process is defined by identification with a 
political attachment. Otherwise, the method might be ade 
quately described as 'socialist romanticism', the transforma 
tion of idealism by a material content, of which West wrote. 
The difficulty remains that the source of 'the desired, the 
possible' has still to be defined. It is still Marxist to find this 
in emergent social forces, which are already active and con- 


scions in the social process. But there has been a distinct 
tendency, in English writers, to find 'the desired, the pos 
sible' in terms of the 'inner energy' of the individual, of 
which Caudwell wrote. This, while it may be an improve 
ment of Marx, would seem to deny his basic proposition 
about 'existence' and 'consciousness'. In fact, as we look at 
the English attempt at a Marxist theory of culture, what 
we see is an interaction between Romanticism and Marx, 
between the idea of culture which is the major English 
tradition and Marx's brilliant revaluation of it. We have to 
conclude that the interaction is as yet far from complete. 


The one vital lesson which the nineteenth century had to 
learn and learn urgently because of the very magnitude of 
its changes was that the basic economic organization could 
not be separated and excluded from its moral and intel 
lectual concerns. Society and individual experience were 
alike being transformed, and this driving agency, which 
there were no adequate traditional procedures to under 
stand and interpret, had, in depth, to be taken into con 
sciousness. Others besides Marx insisted on this, and worked 
towards it, but Marx, in giving a social and historical defini 
tion to the vaguer idea of Industrialism', made the decisive 
contribution. The materials for restoring a whole and ade 
quate consciousness of our common life were given into our 
hands. Meanwhile, underlying this, the practical means of 
community were being slowly learned, in experience. 

Marx's emphasis has passed into the general mind, even 
if his particular teaching is still inevitably controversial. 
The questions we have now to ask for the validity of his 
economic and political theory cannot here be discussed 
relate to the Marxist impact on our thinking about culture. 
The basic question, as it has normally been put, is whether 
the economic element is in fact determining, I have fol 
lowed the controversies on this, but it seems to me that it 
is, ultimately, an unanswerable question. The shaping in 
fluence of economic change can of course be distinguished, 
as most notably in the period with which this book is con- 


cerned. But the difficulty lies in estimating the final impor 
tance of a factor which never, in practice, appears in isola 
tion. We can never observe economic change in neutral 
conditions, any more than we can, say, observe the exact 
influence of heredity, which is only available for study 
when it is already embodied in an environment. Capitalism, 
and industrial capitalism, which Marx by historical analy 
sis was able to describe in general terms, appeared only 
within an existing culture. English society and French so 
ciety are both, today, in certain stages of capitalism, but 
their cultures are observably different, for sound historical 
reasons. That they are both capitalist may be finally de 
termining, and this may be a guide to social and political 
action, but clearly, if we are to understand the cultures, 
we are committed to what is manifest: the way of life as 
a whole. What many of us have felt about Marxist cultural 
interpretation is that it seems committed, by Marx's for 
mula, to a rigid methodology, so that if one wishes to study, 
say, a national literature, one must begin with the economic 
history with which the literature co-exists, and then put the 
literature to it, to be interpreted in its light. It is true that 
on occasion one learns something from this, but, in general, 
the procedure seems to involve both forcing and super 
ficiality. For, even if the economic element is determining, 
it determines a whole way of life, and it is to this, rather 
than to the economic system alone, that the literature has 
to be related. The interpretative method which is governed, 
not by the social whole, but rather by the arbitrary cor 
relation of the economic situation and the subject of study, 
leads very quickly to abstraction and unreality, as for ex 
ample in CaudwelFs description of modem poetry (that is, 
since the fifteenth century) as 'capitalist poetry', 27 where 
it remains to be shown that 'capitalist* is a relevant de 
scription of poetry at all. It leads also to the overriding of 
practical concrete judgements by generalizations, as for ex 
ample in descriptions of Western European literature of 
this century as 'decadent' because its social system is 
judged 'decadent': a procedure which lumps together the 
bad art which reflects and exploits elements of disintegra 
tion, and the substantial art which, by the very seriousness 


of its procedure, shows the disintegration in process, and 
what it is like, in detail, to live through it. It leads also, 
I think, to very doubtful descriptions of a culture as a 
whole. To describe English life, thought and imagination 
in the last three hundred years simply as bourgeois', to de 
scribe English culture now as 'dying', is to surrender reality 
to a formula. I am glad to see that this point is still con 
troversial among Marxists: some arguing that in a class 
society there is e a polarization of mental activity' around the 
ruling class, so that if the ruling ckss is 'bourgeois' all the 
mental activity is Tbowgeois'; others denying this, and ar 
guing that the consciousness of a whole society is always 
more diverse, and is not limited to the economically domi 
nant class. 28 Whichever of these views may best accord 
with Marx, it would seem that the balance of evidence 
clearly lies with the latter. In al these points there would 
seein to be a general inadequacy, among Marxists, In the 
use of 'culture' as a term. It normally indicates, in their 
writings, the intellectual and imaginative products of a so 
ciety; this corresponds with the weak use of 'superstruc 
ture'. But it would seem that from their emphasis on the 
interdependence of all elements of social reality, and from 
their analytic emphasis on movement and change, Marxists 
should logically use 'culture' in the sense of a whole way of 
life, a general social process. The point is not merely verbal, 
for the emphasis in this latter use would make impossible 
the mechanical procedures which I have criticized, and 
would offer a basis for more substantial understanding. The 
difficulty lies, however, in the terms of Marx's original 
formulation: if one accepts 'structure' and 'superstructure', 
not as the terms of a suggestive analogy, but as descrip 
tions of reality, the errors naturally follow. Even if the 
terms are seen as those of an analogy, they meed, as I have 
tried to suggest, amendment. 

One practical result of this kind of Maoist interpretation 
of the past can be seen in the persistent attempts to define 
the culture of the socialist future. If you get into the habit 
of thinking that a bourgeois society produces, in a simple 
and direct way, a bourgeois culture, then you are likely to 
think that a socialist society will produce, also simply and 


directly, a socialist culture, and you may think it incum 
bent on you to say what it will be like. As a matter of fact, 
most of the speculation about the 'socialist culture' of the 
future has been no more than a Utopian habit; one cannot 
take it very seriously. But the point became practical in 
Russia, where, for example, the kind of literature appropri 
ate to the new society has been commonly defined in ad 
vance, as an authoritative prescription. If there is a habit 
of thinking of the relation between literature and society as 
simple and direct, such a procedure seems plausible, a 
campaign for 'socialist realism' seems plausible, and of 
course literature of a kind, in response to the campaign, 
will always be got. But, if we are to agree with Marx that 
'existence determines consciousness*, we shall not find it 
easy to prescribe any particular consciousness in advance, 
unless, of course (this is how in theory it is usually done) 
the prescribers can somehow identify themselves with 'exist 
ence'. My own view is that if, in a socialist society, the 
basic cultural skills are made widely available, and the 
channels of communication widened and cleared, as much 
as possible has been done in the way of preparation, and 
what then emerges wil be an actual response to the whole 
reality, and so valuable. The other way can be seen in these 
words of Lenin: 

Every artist ... has a right to create freely accord 
ing to his ideals, independent of anything. Only, of 
course, we communists cannot stand with our hands 
folded and let chaos develop in any direction it may. 
We must guide this process according to a plan and 
form its results. 29 

There is no *of course' about it, and the growth of conscious 
ness is cheapened (as in the mechanical descriptions of the 
past) by being foreseen as 'chaos'. Here, it is not ultimately 
a question of wise or unwise, free or totalitarian, policy; it 
is, rather, a question of inadequacy in the theory of culture. 
The point can be put, finally, on a wider basis. Modem 
communist practice rests to a very large degree on Lenin, 
and it can be argued, in this matter of the development of 


consciousness, that Lenin is inconsistent with Marx. Lenin 
wrote, for instance: 

The history of all countries shows that the working 
class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop 
only trade-union consciousness. 30 

The working-class movement, unable to develop an ide 
ology for itself , will be 'captured' either by bourgeois ide 
ology* or by socialist ideology, which latter is itself created 
by bourgeois intellectuals. So much depends, here, on the 
ways in which Ideology' and 'consciousness* are used, but 

(i) if Lenin seriously and constantly maintained that 
the working class cannot create a socialist ide 
ology, Marx's account of the relation between 
class and ideology, and between existence and 
consciousness, cannot easily be maintained; 

(ii) if the 'bourgeois intelligentsia', working alone, 
can create 'socialist ideology', the relation be 
tween 'existence* and 'consciousness' has again to 
be redefined; 

(iii) if the working people are really in this helpless 
condition, that they alone cannot go beyond 
'trade-union consciousness' (that is, a negative 
reaction to capitalism rather than a positive re 
action towards socialism) , they can be regarded 
as 'masses' to be captured, the objects rather 
than the subjects of power. Almost anything can 
then be justified. 

It is not easy to discover any single judgement on these 
questions which one can take as finally and authentically 
Marxist. The point is vital, for it would seem to lie at the 
root of a number of differences between the spirit of Marxist 
criticism and certain observable aspects of communist 
policy. We are interested in Marxist theory because social 
ism and communism are now important. We shall, to the 
degree that we value its stimulus, continue to look for its 
clarification in the field of culture as a whole. 



*!T is not so much a series of books, it is more like a world/ 1 
Tills is Orwell, on Dickens. It is not so much a series of 
books, it is more like a case/ This, today, is Orwell himself. 
We have been using him, since his death, as the ground 
for a general argument, but this is not mainly an argument 
about ideas, it is an argument about mood. It is not that he 
was a great artist, whose experience we have slowly to re 
ceive and value. It is not that he was an important thinker, 
whose ideas we have to interpret and examine. His interest 
lies almost wholly in his frankness. With us, he inherited a 
great and humane tradition; with us, he sought to apply it 
to the contemporary world. He went to books, and found 
in them the detail of virtue and truth. He went to experi 
ence, and found in it the practice of loyalty, tolerance and 
sympathy. But, in the end, 

it was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were 
striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into 
his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped 
quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, 
though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty 
dust from entering along with him. 2 

The dust is part of the case: the caustic dust carried by the 
vile wind. Democracy, truth, art, equality,, culture: all 
these we carry in our heads, but, in the street, the wind is 
everywhere. The great and humane tradition is a kind of 
wry joke; in the books it served, but put them down and 
look around you. It is not so much a disillusion, it is more 
like our actual world. 

The situation is paradox: this kind of tradition, this kind 
of dust. We have made Orwell the igure of this paradox: 
in reacting to him we are reacting to a common situation. 
England took the first shock of industrialism and its con- 


sequences, and from this it followed, on the one hand, that 
the humane response was early, fine and deep the making 
of a real tradition; on the other hand that the material con 
stitution of what was criticized was built widely into all 
our lives a powerful and committed reality. The interaction 
has been long, slow and at times desperate. A man who 
lives it on his own senses is subject to extraordinary pres 
sures. Orwell lived it, and franHy recorded it: this is why 
we attend to him. At the same time, although the situation 
is common, Orwell's response was Ms own, and has to be 
distinguished. Neither his affiliations, his difficulties nor Ms 
disillusion need be taken as prescriptive. In the end, for 
any proper understanding, it is not so much a case, it is a 
series of books. 

The total effect of Orwell's work is an effect of paradox. 
He was a humane man who communicated an extreme of 
inhuman terror; a man committed to decency who actual 
ized a distinctive squalor. These, perhaps, are elements of 
the general paradox. But there are other, more particular, 
paradoxes. He was a socialist, who popularized a severe 
and damaging criticism of the idea of socialism and of its 
adherents. He was a believer in equality, and a critic of 
class, who founded his later work on a deep assumption of 
inherent inequality, inescapable class difference. These 
points have been obscured, or are the subject of merely 
partisan debate. They can only be approached, adequately, 
through observation of a further paradox. He was a notable 
critic of abuse of language, who himself practised certain 
of its major and typical abuses. He was a fine observer of 
detail, and appealed as an empiricist, while at the same 
time committing himself to an unusual amount of plausible 
yet specious generalization. It is on these points, inherent 
in the very material of his work, that we must first con 

That he was a fine observer of detail I take for granted; 
it is the great merit of that group of essays of wMch The 
Art of Donald McGill is typical, and of parts of The Hood 
to Wigan Pier. The contrary observation, on his general 
judgements, is an effect of the total reading of his work, 
but some examples may here stand as reminders: 


In each variant of socialism that appeared from about 
1900 onwards the aim of establishing liberty and 
equality was more and more openly abandoned. 8 

The British Labour Party? Guild Socialism? 

By the fourth decade of the twentieth century all the 
main currents of political thought were authoritarian. 
The earthly paradise had been discredited at exactly 
the moment when it became realisable. 4 

England in 1945? 

The first thing that must strike any outside observer is 
that Socialism in its developed form is a theory con 
fined entirely to the middle class. 5 

A Labour Party conference? Any local party in an industrial 
constituency? Trade-unions? 

All left-wing parlies in the highly industrialized coun 
tries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their 
business to ght against something which they do not 
really wish to destroy. 

On what total evidence? 

The energy that actually shapes the world springs from 
emotions racial pride, leader worship, religious be 
lief, love of war which liberal intellectuals mechani 
cally write off as anachronisms, and which they have 
usually destroyed so completely in themselves as to 
have lost all power of action. 7 

But does the shaping energy spring from these emotions 
alone? Is there no other 'power of action*? 

A humanitarian is always a hypocrite. 8 
An irritation masquerading as a judgement? 

Take, for instance, the fact that all sensitive people are 
revolted by industrialism and its products. . . . 

AH? By all its products? 

I isolate these examples, not only to draw attention to 
this aspect of Orwell's method, but also to indicate (as all 


but one of them do) the quality of the disillusion which 
has, in bulk, been so persuasive. In many of the judgements 
there is an element of truth, or at least ground for argu 
ment, but Orwell's manner is normally to assert, and then 
to argue within the assertion. As a literary method, the in 
fluence of Shaw and Chesterton is clear. 

The method has become that of journalism, and is some 
times praised as clear forthright statement. Orwell, in his 
discussions of language, made many very useful points 
about the language of propaganda. But just as he used 
plausible assertion, very often, as a means of generalization, 
so, when he was expressing a prejudice, often of the same 
basic kind, he moved very easily into the propagandist's 
Mnd of emotive abuse: 

One sometimes gets the impression that the mere 
words 'Socialism* and 'Communism' draw towards 
them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, 
nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, 'Nature 
Cure' quack, paciist and feminist in England. . . . 10 

. . . vegetarians with wilting beards . . . shock- 
beaded Marxists chewing polysyllables . . . birth con 
trol fanatics and Labour Party backstairs-crawlers. 11 

Or consider his common emotive use of the adjective little': 

The typical socialist ... a prim little man with a 
white-collar job, usually a secret teetotaller and often 
with vegetarian leanings. . . . 12 

A rather mean little man, with a white face and a bald 
head, standing on a platform, shooting out slogans. 13 

. . . The typical little bowler-hatted sneak Strobe's 
'little man'-the little docile cit who slips "home by the 
six-fifteen to a supper of cottage-pie and stewed tinned 
pears. 14 

In the highbrow world you 'get on', if you 'get on' at 
all not so much by your literary ability as by being the 
life and soul of cocktail parties and kissing the bums 
of verminous little lions. . . * 15 


Of course, this can be laughed at, and one will only be 
annoyed if one is a socialist, nudist, feminist, commuter, or 
so on. But I agree with Orwell that good prose is closely 
connected with liberty, and with the social possibility of 
truth. I agree with him also (and so assemble this evidence) 

modem writing at its worst . . . consists in gumming 
together long strips of words wMch have already been 
set in order by someone else, and making the results 
presentable by sheer humbug. 16 

To overlook this practice in Orwell himself would be ridicu 
lous and harmful. 

Now, in normal circumstances, any writer who at all 
frequently wrote in the manner of the examples quoted 
might be simply disregarded. Yet I see this paradox, this 
permission of such writing by a man who accepted the 
standards which condemn it, as part of the whole paradox 
of Orwell, which I wish to describe. He is genuinely baffling 
until one inds the key to the paradox, which I will caE the 
paradox of the exile. For Orwell was one of a significant 
number of men who, deprived of a settled way of living, or 
of a faith, or having rejected those which were inherited, 
find virtue in a land of improvised living, and in an assertion 
of independence. The tradition, in England, is distin 
guished. It attracts to itself many of the liberal virtues; 
empiricism, a certain integrity, frankness. It has also, as 
the normally contingent virtue of exile, certain qualities of 
perception: in particular, the ability to distinguish inade 
quacies in the groups which have been rejected. It gives, 
also, an appearance of strength, although this is largely 
illusory. The qualities, though salutary, are largely nega 
tive; there is an appearance of hardness (he austere criti 
cism of hypocrisy, complacency, self-deceit) , but this is 
usually brittle, and at times hysterical; the substance of 
community is lacking, and the tension, in men of high 
quality, is very great. Alongside the tough rejection of com 
promise, which gives the tradition its virtue, is the felt social 
impotence, the inability to form extending relationships. 


D. H. Lawrence, still the most intelligent of these men in 
our time, knew this condition and described it. Orwell may 
also have known it; at least he lived the rejections with a 
thoroughness that holds the attention. 

The virtues o Orwell's writing are those we expect, and 
value, from this tradition as a whole. Yet we need to make a 
distinction between exile and vagrancy; there is usually a 
principle in exile, there is always only relaxation in va 
grancy. Orwell, in different parts of his career, is both exile 
and vagrant. The vagrant, in literary terms, is the reporter*, 
and, where the reporter is good, Ms work has the merits of 
novelty and a certain specialized kind of immediacy. The 
reporter is an observer, an intermediary: it is unlikely that 
he will understand, in any depth, the life about which lie 
is writing (the vagrant from his own society, or his own 
class, looking at another, and still inevitably from the out 
side) , But a restless society very easily accepts this kind of 
achievement: at one level the report on the curious or the 
exotic; at another level, when the class or society is nearer 
the reporter's own, the perceptive critique. Most of Orwell's 
early work is of one of these two kinds (Down and Out in 
Paris and London; The Road to Wigan Pier). The early 
novels, similarly, are a kind of fictionalized report: even the 
best of them, Coming up for Air, has more of the qualities 
of the virtuoso reporter (putting himself in the place of the 
abstract, representative figure) than of the intensity of full 
imaginative realization. We listen to, and go about with, 
Orwell's Mr Bowling; Orwell, for the most part, is evidently 
present, offering his report. 

Now, it would be absurd to blame Orwell for this Va 
grant* experience; he had good reasons for rejecting the 
ways of life normally open to him. But he saw that the 
rejection had in the end to be ratified by some principle: 
this was the condition of vagrancy becoming exile, which, 
because of Ms quality, he recognized as finer. The principle 
he chose was socialism, and Homage to Catalonia is still a 
moving book (quite apart from the political controversy it 
involves) because it is a record of the most deliberate at 
tempt he ever made to become part of a believing commu 
nity. Nor can such praise be modified because the attempt, 

310 CULTUBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

in continuing terms, failed. While we are right to question 

the assertion of self-sufficiency, by vagrant and exile alike, 
we have also to recognize the complexity of what is being 
rejected and of what can be found. Orwell, in exploring this 
complexity, did work of real value. 

But the principle, though affirmed, could not now (Or 
well concluded) carry him directly through to actual com 
munity. It could, in fact, only be lived in controversy. Or 
well's socialism became the exile's principle, which he 
would at any cost keep inviolate. The cost, in practice, was 
a partial abandonment of his own standards: he had often 
to curse, wildly, to keep others away, to avoid being con 
fused with them. He did not so much attack socialism, 
which was safe in his mind, as socialists, who were there 
and might involve him. What he did attack, in socialism, 
was its disciplines, and, on this basis, he came to concen 
trate his attack on communism. His attacks on the denial 
of liberty are admirable; we have all, through every loyalty, 
to defend the basic liberties of association and expression, 
or we deny man. Yet, when the exile speaks of liberty, he is 
in a curiously ambiguous position, for while the rights in 
question may be called individual, the condition of their 
guarantee is inevitably social. The exile, because of his own 
personal position, cannot finally believe in any social guar 
antee; to him, because this is the pattern of his own living, 
almost all association is suspect. He fears it because he does 
not want to be compromised (this is often his virtue, be 
cause he is so quick to see the perfidy which certain com 
promises involve) . Yet he fears it also because he can see 
no way of confirming, socially, his own individuality; this, 
after all, is the psychological condition of the self-exile. 
Thus in attacking the denial of liberty he is on sure ground; 
he is wholehearted in rejecting the attempts of society to 
involve him. When, however, in any positive way, he has 
to affirm liberty, he is forced to deny its inevitable social 
basis: all he can fall back on is the notion of an atomistic 
society, which will leave individuals alone. 'Totalitarian' de 
scribes a certain kind of repressive social control, but, also, 
any real society, any adequate community, is necessarily a 
totality. To belong to a community is to be a part of a 


whole, and, necessarily, to accept, while helping to define, 
its disciplines. To the exile, however, society as such is to 
talitarian; he cannot commit himself, he is bound to stay 

Yet Orwell was at the same time deeply moved by what 
he saw of avoidable or remediable suffering and poverty, 
and he was convinced that the means of remedy are social, 
involving commitment, involving association, and, to the 
degree that he was serious, involving himself. In Ms essay 
Writers and Leviathan, which he wrote for a series in Poli 
tics and Letters, Orwell recognized this kind of deadlock, 
and his solution was that in such circumstances the writer 
must divide: one part of himself uncommitted, the other 
part involved. This indeed is the bankruptcy of exile, yet it 
was, perhaps, inevitable. He could not believe (it is not a 
matter of intellectual persuasion; it is a question of one's 
deepest experience and response) that any settled way of 
living exists in which a man's individuality can be socially 
confirmed. The writer's problem, we must now realize, is 
only one aspect of this general problem, which has cer 
tainly, in our own time, been acute. But because we have 
accepted the condition of exile, for a gifted individual, as 
normal, we have too easily accepted the Orwel kind of 
analysis as masterly. It is indeed a frank and honest report, 
and our kind of society has tied this knot again and again; 
yet what is being recorded, in Orwell, is the experience of 
a victim: of a man who, while rejecting the consequences 
of an atomistic society, yet retains deeply, in himself, its 
characteristic mode of consciousness. At the easy levels this 
tension is mediated in the depiction of society as a racket; 
a man may even join in the racket, but he tells himself that 
he has no illusions about what he is doinghe keeps a secret 
part of himself inviolate. At the more difficult levels, with 
men of Orwell's seriousness, this course is impossible, and 
the tension cannot be discharged, The consequent strain is 
indeed desperate; this, more than any objective threat, is 
the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four, 

A Marxist dismisses Orwell as 'petty bourgeois', but this, 
while one sees what it means, is too shallow. A man cannot 
be interpreted in terms of some original sin of class; he is 


where he Is, and with the feelings he has; his life has to be 
lived with his own experience, not with someone else s. The 
only point about class, where OrweE is concerned, is that he 
wrote extensively about the English working class, and that 
this, because it has been influential, has to be revalued. On 
such matters, Orwell is the reporter again: he is often 
sharply observant, often again given to plausible generali 
zation. In thinking, from his position, of the working class 
primarily as a class, he assumed too readily that observation 
of particular working-class people was an observation of all 
working-class behaviour. Because, however, he looked at 
people at all, he is often nearer the truth than more ab 
stract left-wing writers. His principal failure was inevitable: 
he observed what was evident, the external factors, and 
only guessed at what was not evident, the inherent patterns 
of feeling. This failure is most obvious in its consequences: 
that he did come to think, half against his will, that the 
working people were really helpless, that they could never 
finaly help themselves. 

In Animal Farm, the geniality of mood, and the existence 
of a long tradition of human analogies in animal terms, 
allow us to overlook the point that the revolution that is 
described is one of animals against men. The men (the old 
owners) were bad, but the animals, left to themselves, 
divide into the pigs (the hypocritical, hating politicians 
whom Orwell had always attacked) and the others. These 
others have many virtues strength, dumb loyalty, kindli 
ness, but there they are: the simple horse, the cynical don 
key, the cackling hens, the bleating sheep, the silly cows. 
It is fairly evident where Orwell's political estimate lies: 
his sympathies are with the exploited sheep and the other 
stupid animals, but the issue of government lies between 
drunkards and pigs, and that is as far as things can go. In 
Nineteen Eighty-Four, the same point is clear, and the 
terms are now direct, The hated politicians are in charge, 
while the dumb mass of 'proles' goes on in very much its 
own ways, protected by its very stupidity. The only dissent 
comes from a rebel intellectual: the exile against the whole 
system. Orwell puts the case in these terms because this is 
how he really saw present society, and Nineteen Eighty- 


Four is desperate because Orwell recognized that on such a 
construction the exile could not win, and then there was 
no hope at all. Or rather: 

If there was hope, it must lie in the proles. . . .Every 
where stood the same solid unconquerable figure, 
made monstrous by work and child-bearing, toiling 
from birth to death and still singing. Out of those 
mighty loins a race of conscious beings must one day 
come. You were the dead; theirs was the future. But 
you could share in that future if you kept alive the 
mind. . . , 17 

This is the conclusion of any Marxist intellectual, in specifi 
cally Marxist terms, but with this difference from at any 
rate some Marxists: that the proles now, like the animals, 
are "monstrous' and not yet 'conscious' one day they will 
be so, and meanwhile the exile keeps the truth alive. The 
only point I would make is that this way of seeing the 
working people is not from fact and observation, but from 
the pressures of feeling exiled: other people are seen as an 
undifferentiated mass beyond one, the 'monstrous* figure. 
Here, again, is the paradox: that the only class in which 
you can put any hope is written off, in present terms, as 

I maintain, against others who have criticized Orwell, 
that as a man he was brave, generous, frank and good, and 
that the paradox which is the total effect of his work is not 
to be understood in solely personal terms, but in terms of 
the pressures of a whole situation. I would certainly insist 
that his conclusions have no general validity, but the fact 
is, in contemporary society, that good men are driven again 
and again Mo his kind of paradox, and that denunciation 
of them Tie . , . runs shrieking into the arms of the capi 
talist publishers with a couple of horror comics which bring 
him fame and fortune' 18 is arrogant and crass. We have, 
rather, to try to understand, in the detail of experience, how 
the instincts of humanity can break down under pressure 
into an inhuman paradox; how a great and humane tradi 
tion can seem at times, to all of us, to disintegrate into a 
caustic dust. 


THE Mstory of the Idea of culture Is a record of our reac 
tions, in thought and feeling, to the changed conditions of 
our common life. Our meaning of culture is a response to 
the events which our meanings of industry and democracy 
most evidently define. But the conditions were created and 
have been modified by men. Record of the events Mes else 
where, in our general history. The history of the idea of 
culture is a record of our meanings and our definitions, but 
these, in turn, are only to be understood within the context 
of our actions. 

The idea of culture is a general reaction to a general and 
major change in the conditions of our common life. Its basic 
element is its effort at total qualitative assessment. The 
change in the whole form of our common life produced, as 
a necessary reaction, an emphasis on attention to this 
whole form. Particular change will modify an habitual dis 
cipline, shift an habitual action. General change, when it 
has worked itself clear, drives us back on our general de 
signs, which we have to learn to look at again, and as a 
whole. The worMng-out of the idea of culture is a slow 
reach again for control. 

Yet the new conditions, which men have been striving to 
understand, were neither uniform nor static. On the con 
trary, they have, from the beginning, contained extreme 
diversity of situation, in a high and moving tension. The 
idea of culture describes our common inquiry, but our con 
clusions are diverse, as our starting points were diverse. The 
word, culture, cannot automatically be pressed into service 
as any kind of social or personal directive. Its emergence, 
in its modern meanings, marks the effort at total qualitative 
assessment, but what it indicates is a process, not a con 
clusion. The arguments which can be grouped under its 
heading do not point to any inevitable action or affiliation. 
They define, in a common field, approaches and conclu- 


sions. It is left to us to decide which, if any, we shall take 

up, that will not turn in our hands. 

In each of the three major issues, those of Industry, of 
Democracy and of Art, there have been three main phases 
of opinion. In industry, there was the first rejection, alike of 
machine-production and of the social relations embodied 
in the factory system. This was succeeded by a phase of 
growing sentiment against the machine as such, in isolation. 
Thirdly, in our own period, machine production came to be 
accepted, and major emphasis transferred to the problem 
of social relations within an industrial system of production. 

In the question of democracy, the first phase was one of 
concern at the threat to minority values with the coming of 
popular supremacy: a concern which was emphasized by 
general suspicion of the power of the new masses. This, in 
turn, was succeeded by a quite different tendency, in which 
emphasis fell on the idea of community, of organic society, 
as against the dominant individualistic ethic and practice. 
Thirdly, in our own century, the fears of the first phase 
were strongly renewed, in the particular context of what 
came to be called mass democracy in the new world of 
mass communications. 

In the question of art, the first emphasis fell, not only on 
the independent value of art, but on the importance to the 
common life of the qualities which it embodied. The con 
tingent element of defiant exile passed into the second 
phase, in which the stress fell on art as a value in itself, 
with at times an open separation of this value from common 
life. Thirdly, emphasis came to be placed on a deliberate 
effort towards the reintegration of art with the common lif e 
of society: an effort which centred around the word 'com 

In these three questions I have listed the phases of opin 
ion in the order in which they appeared, but of course 
opinion is persistent, and whether in relation to industry, to 
democracy or to art, each of the three phases could easily 
be represented from the opinions of our own day. Yet it is 
possible in retrospect to see three main periods, within each 
of which a distinct emphasis is paramount. In the first 
period, from about 1790 to 1870, we find the long effort to 

316 CULTUBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

compose a general attitude towards the new forces of in 
dustrialism and democracy; it is in this period that the 
major analysis is undertaken and the major opinions and 
descriptions emerge. Then, from about 1870 to 1914, there 
is a breaking-down into narrower fronts, marked by a par 
ticular specialism in attitudes to art, and, in the general 
field, by a preoccupation with direct politics. After 1914 
these definitions continue, but there is a growing preoccu 
pation, approaching a climax after 1945, with the issues 
raised not only by the inherited problems but by new prob 
lems arising from the development of mass media of com 
munication and the general growth of large-scale organiza 

A great deal of what has been written in each of these 
three periods retains its relevance and importance. In par 
ticular, it is impossible to over-emphasize our debt to the 
first great critical period which gave us, in relation to these 
problems, the greater part of our language and manner of 
approach. From all the periods, indeed, certain decisive 
statements stand. Yet even as we learn, we realize that the 
world we see through such eyes is not, although it resem 
bles, our world. What we receive from the tradition is a set 
of meanings, but not all of these will hold their significance 
if, as we must, we return them to immediate experience. I 
have tried to make this return, and I will set down the 
variations and new definitions that have followed from this, 
as a personal conclusion. 

Mass and Masses 

We now regularly use both the idea of *the masses', 
and the consequent ideas of 'mass-civilization 7 , *mass- 
democracy*, 'mass-commuDdcation' and others. Here, I 
think, lies a central and very difficult issue which more than 
any other needs revision. 

Masses was a new word for mob, and it is a very signifi 
cant word. It seems probable that three social tendencies 
joined to confirm its meaning. First, there was the concen 
tration of population in the industrial towns, a physical 
massing of persons which the great increase in total popula- 


tion accentuated, and which has continued with continuing 
urbanization. Second, there was the concentration of work 
ers into factories: again, a physical massing, made neces 
sary by machine-production; also, a social massing, in the 
work-relations made necessary by the development of large- 
scale collective production. Third, there was the conse 
quent development of an organized and self-organizing 
working class: a social and political massing. The masses, 
in practice, have been any of these particular aggregates, 
and because the tendencies have been interrelated, it has 
been possible to use the term with a certain unity. And 
then, on the basis of each tendency, the derived ideas have 
arisen: from urbanization, the mass meeting; from the 
factory, in part in relation to the workers, but mainly in 
relation to the things made, mass-production; from the 
working class, mass-action. Yet, masses was a new word 
for mob, and the traditional characteristics of the mob were 
retained in its significance: gullibility, fickleness, herd- 
prejudice, lowness of taste and habit. The masses, on this 
evidence, formed the perpetual threat to culture. Mass- 
thinking, mass-suggestion, mass-prejudice would threaten 
to swamp considered individual thinking and feeling. Even 
democracy, which had both a classical and a liberal reputa 
tion, would lose its savour in becoming mass-democracy. 

Now mass-democracy, to take the latest example, can be 
either an observation or a prejudice; sometimes, indeed, it 
is both. As an observation, the term draws attention to cer 
tain problems of a modem democratic society which could 
not have been foreseen by its early partisans. The existence 
of immensely powerful media of mass-communication is at 
the heart of these problems, for through these public opin 
ion has been observably moulded and directed, often by 
questionable means, often for questionable ends. I shall 
discuss this issue separately, in relation to the new means 
of communication. 

But the term mass-democracy is also, evidently, a preju 
dice. Democracy, as in England we have interpreted it, is 
majority rule. The means to this, in representation and free 
dom of expression, are generally approved. But, with uni 
versal suffrage, majority rule will, if we believe in the exist- 


ence o the masses, be mass-rale. Further, if the masses 
axe, essentially, the mob, democracy will be mob-rule. This 
will hardly be good government, or a good society; it will, 
rather, be the rule of lowness or mediocrity. At this point, 
which it is evidently very satisfying to some thinkers to 
reach, it is necessary to ask again; who are the masses? In 
practice, in our society and in this context, they can hardly 
be other than the working people. But if this is so, it is clear 
that what is in question is not only gullibility, fickleness, 
herd-prejudice, or lowness of taste and habit. It is also, from 
the open record, the declared intention of the working peo 
ple to alter society, in many of its aspects, in ways which 
those to whom the franchise was formerly restricted deeply 
disapprove. It seems to me, when this is considered, titiat 
what is being questioned is not mass-democracy, but de 
mocracy. If a majority can be achieved in favour of these 
changes, the democratic criterion is satisfied. But if you 
disapprove of the changes you can, it seems, avoid open 
opposition to democracy as such by inventing a new cate 
gory, mass-democracy, which is not such a good thing at 
all. The submerged opposite is class-democracy, where de 
mocracy will merely describe the processes by which a 
ruling class conducts its business of ruling. Yet democracy, 
as interpreted in England in this century, does not mean 
this, So, if change reaches the point where it deeply hurts 
and cannot be accepted, either democracy must be denied 
or refuge taken in a new term of opprobrium. It is clear 
that this confusion of the issue cannot be tolerated. Masses 
= majority cannot be glibly equated with masses = mob. 

A difficulty arises here with the whole concept of masses. 
Here, most urgently, we have to return the meanings to 
experience. Our normal public conception of an individual 
person, for example, is 'the man in the street'. But nobody 
feels himself to be only the man in the street; we all know 
much more about ourselves than that. The man in the street 
is a collective image, but we know, all the time, our own 
difference from him. It is the same with *the public', which 
includes us, but yet is not us. 'Masses' is a little more com 
plicated, yet similar. I do not think of my relatives, friends, 
neighbours, colleagues, acquaintances, as masses; we none 


of us can or do. The masses are always the others, whom 
we don't know, and can't know. Yet now, in our kind of 
society, we see these others regularly, in their myriad varia 
tions; stand, physically, beside them. They are here, and 
we are here with them. And that we are with them is of 
course the whole point. To other people, we also are masses. 
Masses are other people. 

There are in fact no masses; there are only ways of seeing 
people as masses. In an urban industrial society there are 
many opportunities for such ways of seeing. The point is 
not to reiterate the objective conditions but to consider, 
personally and collectively, what these have done to our 
thinking. The fact is, surely, that a way of seeing other 
people which has become characteristic of our kind of so 
ciety, has been capitalized for the purposes of political or 
cultural exploitation. What we see, neutrally, is other peo 
ple, many others, people unknown to us. In practice, we 
mass them, and interpret them, according to some conven 
ient formula. Within its terms, the formula will hold. Yet it 
is the formula, not the mass, which it is our real business to 
examine. It may help us to do this if we remember that we 
ourselves are all the time being massed by others. To the 
degree that we find the formula inadequate for ourselves, 
we can wish to extend to others the courtesy of acknowl 
edging the unknown. 

I have mentioned the political formula by means of 
which it seems possible to convert the majority of one's fel 
low human beings into masses, and thence into something 
to be hated or feared. I wish now to examine another for 
mula, which underlies the idea of mass-communication. 


The new means of communication represent a major 
technical advance. The oldest, and still the most important, 
is printing, which has itself passed through major technical 
changes, in particular the coming of the steam-driven ma 
chine press in 1811, and the development of ever faster 
cylinder and rotary presses from 1815. The major advances 
in transport, by road, rail, sea and air, themselves greatly 

320 CULTUHE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

affected printing: at once in the collection of news and in 
the wide and quick distribution of the printed product 
The development of the cable, telegraph and telephone 
services even more remarkably facilitated the collection of 
news. Then, as new media, came sound broadcasting, the 
cinema and television. 

We need to look again at these familiar factual elements 
if we are to be able adequately to review the idea of 'mass- 
communication' which is their product. In sum, these 
changes have given us more and normally cheaper books, 
magazines and newspapers; more bills and posters; broad 
casting and television programmes; various kinds of film. 
It would be difficult, I think, to express a simple and definite 
judgement of value about all these very varied products, yet 
they are all things that need to be valued. My question is 
whether the idea of 'mass-communication 7 is a useful for 
mula for this. 

Two preliminary points are evident: first, that there is a 
general tendency to confuse the techniques themselves with 
the uses to which, in a given society, they have been put; 
second, that, in considering these uses, our argument is 
commonly selective, at times to an extreme degree. 

The techniques, in my view, are at worst neutral. The 
only substantial objection that is made to them is that they 
are relatively impersonal, by comparison with older tech 
niques serving the same ends. Where the theatre presented 
actors, the cinema presents the photographs of actors. 
Where the meeting presented a man speaking, the wireless 
presents a voice, or television a voice and a photograph. 
Points of this kind are relevant, but need to be carefully 
made. It is not relevant to contrast an evening spent watch 
ing television with an evening spent in conversation, al 
though this is often done. There is, I believe, no form of 
social activity which the use of these techniques has re 
placed. At most, by adding alternatives, they have allowed 
altered emphases in the time given to particular activities. 
But these alterations are obviously conditioned, not only 
by the techniques, but mainly by the whole circumstances 
of the common life. The point about impersonality often 
carries a ludicrous rider. It is supposed, for instance, that it 


is an objection to listening to wireless talks or discussions 
that the listener cannot answer the speakers back. But the 
situation is that of almost any reader; printing, after all, 
was the first great impersonal medium. It is as easy to send 
an answer to a broadcast speaker or a newspaper editor as 
to send one to a contemporary author; both are very much 
easier than to try to answer Aristotle, Burke or Marx. We 
fail to realize, in this matter, that much of what we call 
communication is, necessarily, no more in itself than trans 
mission; that is to say, a one-way sending. Reception and 
response, which complete communication, depend on other 
factors than the techniques. 

What can be observed as a fact about the development 
of these techniques is a steady growth of what I propose to 
call multiple transmission. The printed book is the first great 
model of this, and the other techniques have followed. The 
new factor, in our own society, is an expansion of the poten 
tial audience for such transmissions, so great as to present 
new kinds of problem. Yet it is clear that it is not to this 
expansion that we can properly object, at least without 
committing ourselves to some rather extraordinary politics. 
The expansion of the audience is due to two factors: first, 
the growth of general education, which has accompanied 
the growth of democracy; second, the technical improve 
ments themselves. It is interesting, in the light of the earlier 
discussion of "masses', that this expansion should have been 
interpreted by the phrase *mass-commuBication*. 

A speaker or writer, addressing a limited audience, is 
often able to get to know this audience well enough to feel 
a directly personal relationship with them which can affect 
his mode of address. Once this audience has been expanded, 
as with everything from books to televised parlour-games 
it has been expanded, this is clearly impossible. It would 
be rash, however, to assume that this is necessarily to Ms 
and the audience's disadvantage. Certain types of address, 
notably serious art, argument and exposition, seem indeed 
to be distinguished by a quality of impersonality which 
enables them frequently to survive their immediate occa 
sion. How far this ultimate impersonality may be dependent 
on a close immediate relationsMp is in fact very difficult to 


assess. But It is always unlikely that any such speaker or 
writer will use, as a model for communication, any concept 
so crude as masses'. The idea of mass-communication, it 
would seem, depends very much more on the intention of 
the speaker or writer, than on the particular technique 

A speaker or writer who knows, at the time of his ad 
dress, that it will reach almost immediately several million 
persons, is faced with an obviously difficult problem of in 
terpretation. Yet, whatever the difficulty, a good speaker or 
writer will be conscious of his immediate responsibility to 
the matter being communicated. He cannot, indeed, feel 
otherwise, if he is conscious of himself as the source of a 
particular transmission. His task is the adequate expression 
of this source, whether it be of feeling, opinion or informa 
tion. He will use for this expression the common language, 
to the limit of his particular skill. That this expression is 
then given multiple transmission is a next stage, of which he 
may well be conscious, but which cannot, of its nature, af 
fect the source. The difficulties of expressing this source- 
difficulties of common experience, convention and language 
are certainly always his concern. But the source cannot in 
any event be denied, or he denies himself. 

Now if, on this perennial problem of communication, we 
impose the idea of masses, we radically alter the position, 
The conception of persons as masses springs, not from an 
inability to know them, but from an interpretation of them 
according to a formula. Here the question of the intention 
of the transmission makes its decisive return. Our formula 
can be that of the rational being speaking our language. It 
can be that of the interested being sharing our common 
experience. Or and it is here that 'masses' will operate it 
can be that of the mob: gullible, ficHe, herdlike, low in 
taste and habit. The formula, in fact, will proceed from our 
intention. If our purpose is art, education, the giving of 
information or opinion, our interpretation will be in terms of 
the rational and interested being. If, on the other hand, our 
purpose is manipulation the persuasion of a large number 
of people to act, feel, think, know, in certain ways the con 
venient formula will be that of the masses. 


There is an important distinction to be drawn here be 
tween source and agent. A man offering an opinion, a 
proposal, a feeling, of course normally desires that other 
persons will accept this, and act or feel in the ways that he 
defines. Yet such a man may be properly described as a 
source, in distinction from an agent, whose characteristic is 
that his expression is subordinated to an undeclared inten 
tion. He is an agent, and not a source, because the intention 
lies elsewhere. In social terms, the agent will normally in 
fact be a subordinate of a government, a commercial firm, 
a newspaper proprietor. Agency, in the simple sense, is 
necessary in any complex administration. But it is always 
dangerous unless its function and intention are not only 
openly declared but commonly approved and controlled. If 
this is so, the agent becomes a collective source, and he will 
observe the standards of such expression if what he is re 
quired to transmit is such that he can wholly acknowledge 
and accept it re-create it in his own person. Where he 
cannot thus accept it for himself, but alows himself to be 
persuaded that it is in a fit form for others presumably 
inferiors and that it is his business merely to see that it 
reaches them effectively, then he is in the bad sense an 
agent, and what he is doing is inferior to that done by the 
poorest kind of source. Any practical denial of the relation 
between conviction and communication, between experi 
ence and expression, is morally damaging alike to the indi 
vidual and to the common language. 

Yet it is certainly true, in our society, that many men, 
many of them intelligent, accept, whether in good or bad 
faith, so dubious a role and activity. The acceptance in bad 
faith is a matter for the law, although we have not yet gone 
very far in working out this necessary common control. The 
acceptance in good faith, on the other hand, is a matter of 
culture. It would clearly not be possible unless it appeared 
to be ratified by a conception of society which relegates the 
majority of its members to mob-status. The idea of the 
masses is an expression of this conception, and the idea of 
mass-communication a comment on its functioning. This is 
the real danger to democracy, not the existence of effective 
and powerful means of multiple transmission. It is less a 

324 CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

product of democracy than its denial, springing from that 
half -world of feeling in which we are invited to have our 
being. Where the principle of democracy is accepted, and 
yet its ful and active practice feared, the mind is lulled into 
an acquiescence, which is yet not so complete that a fitful 
conscience, a defensive irony, cannot visit it. 'Democracy 
would be all right/ we can come to say, *it is indeed what 
we personally would prefer, if it were not for the actual 
people. So, in a good cause if we can find it, in some other 
if we can not, we will try to get by at a level of communica 
tion which our experience and training tell us is inferior. 
Since the people are as they are, the thing will do.* But it is 
as well to face the fact that what we are really doing, in 
such a case, is to cheapen our own experience and to adul 
terate the common language. 


Yet the people are as they are, the objection is returned,, 
Of course the masses are only other people, yet most other 
people are, on the evidence, a mob. In principle, we would 
wish it not to be so; in practice, the evidence is clear. 

This is the negative side of the idea of mass-communica 
tion. Its evidence is collected under the title of mass-culture, 
or popular culture. It is important evidence, and much of it 
is incontrovertible. There remains, however, the question of 
its interpretation. I have said that our arguments on this 
matter are normally selective, often to an extreme degree. 
I will try now to illustrate this. 

We are faced with the fact that there is now a great deal 
of bad art, bad emterfaininent, bad journalism, bad adver 
tisement, bad argument. We are not likely to be diverted 
from this conclusion by the usual diversionary arguments. 
Much that we judge to be bad is known to be bad by its 
producers. Ask any journalist, or any copywriter, if he will 
now accept that famous definition: 'written by morons for 
morons*. Will he not reply that in fact it is written by 
skilled and intelligent people for a public that hasn't the 
time, or hasn't the education, or hasn't, let's face it, the 
intelligence, to read anything more complete, anything more 


careful, anything nearer the known canons of exposition or 
argument? Had we not better say, for simplicity, anything 
good? Good and bad are hard words, and we can, of course, 
find easier ones. The strip newspaper, the beer advertise 
ment, the detective novel it is not exactly that they are 
good, but they are good of their (possibly bad) kind; they 
have the merits at least of being bright, attractive, popular. 
Yet, clearly, the strip newspaper has to be compared with 
other kinds of newspaper; the beer advertisement with 
other kinds of description of a product; the detective novel 
with other novels. By these standards not by reference to 
some ideal quality, but by reference to the best things that 
men exercising this faculty have done or are doing we are 
not likely to doubt that a great deal of what is now pro 
duced, and widely sold, is mediocre or bad. 

But this is said to be popular culture. The description has 
a ready-made historical thesis. After the Education Act of 
1870, a new mass-public came into being, literate but un 
trained in reading, low in taste and habit. The mass-culture 
followed as a matter of course. I think always, when I hear 
this thesis, of an earlier one, from the second half of the 
eighteenth century. Then, the decisive date was between 
1730 and 1740, and what had emerged, with the advance of 
the middle classes to prosperity, was a new middle-class 
reading public. The immediate result was that vulgar phe 
nomenon, the novel. As a matter of fact there is in both 
theses a considerable element of truth. If the former is not 
now so commonly mentioned, it is only because it would be 
indiscreet, in a situation where 'good* and 'middle class* are 
equivalent terms. And of course we can properly see the 
earlier situation in its true perspective. We can see that what 
the rise of the middle classes produced was not only the 
novel but many other things good and bad. Further, now 
that the bad novels are all out of print, and the good ones 
are among our classics, we see that the novel itself, while 
certainly a phenomenon, cannot be lightly dismissed as 
vulgar. Of the situation after 1870 we are not able to speak 
so clearly. For one thing, since the emergence as a whole 
still divides us, we can resent the cultural situation for 
political reasons and not realize this. For another, since the 


period lias not fallen into settled history, we can be much 
more subjective in our selection of evidence. 

1870 is in fact very questionable as a decisive date. 
There had been widespread literacy much earlier than 
this, the bad popular press is in fact also earlier. The result 
of the new educational provision was in part an actual in 
crease in literacy, in part an evening-tip between the fortu 
nate places and the unfortunate. The increase is certainly 
large enough to be important, but it was no kind of sudden 
opening of the flood-gates. In itself, it is far from enough 
to account for the institution of the now characteristic 
features of popular culture. 

Further, we need to remember that the new institutions 
were not produced by the working people themselves. They 
were, rather, produced for them by others, often (as most 
notably with the cheap newspaper and commercial adver 
tisement on a large scale) for conscious political or com 
mercial advantage. Such things in this sphere as the work 
ing people produced for themselves (radical newspapers, 
political pamphlets and publicity, trade-union banners 
and designs) were, if by no means always good, at least 
quite different in important respects. Again, it is wrong to 
see the new institutions as catering only for the new class. 
The new types of newspaper and advertisement were and 
are much more widely received. If the masses are to be 
defined as those for whom these institutions now cater, and 
by whom they are now received with apparent satisfaction, 
then the masses extend far beyond the categories of, say, 
the manual workers, or those whose education has been 
restricted to an elementary stage. I make this point because 
'masses = working and lower-middle class' is so commonly 
confused with 'masses = mob*. The mob, if there is one, is at 
almost everyone's elbow; it may, indeed, be even nearer 
than thato 

And if this is so of the new newspapers and advertise 
ments, it is even more true of the other bad work which has 
been noted, in the novel, in the theatre, in the cinema, in 
the wireless and television programmes. If, in this kind of 
entertainment, there has been a continual decline of stand 
ards, then it is not from 1870 that we shall date this, but 


at least from 1740. As a matter of fact, 1 see little evidence 
why the backward dating should stop there, but then I am 
not so sure about die continual decline in standards. The 
multiplication of transmission, and the discovery of power 
ful media, seem to me mainly to have emphasized and 
made more evident certain long-standing tastes and means 
of satisfying them. I shall return to this point when I have 
made a further observation about our practices of selection. 

In the matter of selection, there are two main points. 
First, it is clear that in an anxiety to prove their case, which 
is indeed an important one if the badness is not to go un 
challenged, the contemporary historians of popular culture 
have tended to concentrate on what is bad and to neglect 
what is good. If there are many bad books, there are also an 
important number of good books, and these, like the bad 
books, circulate much more widely than in any previous 
period. If the readers of bad newspapers have increased in 
number, so have the readers of better newspapers and 
periodicals, so have the users of public libraries, so have 
students in al kinds of formal and informal adult education. 
The audiencies for serious music, opera and ballet have 
increased, in some cases to a remarkable degree. Attend 
ances at museums and exhibitions have, in general, steadily 
risen. A significant proportion of what is seen in the cinemas, 
and of what is heard on the wireless, is work of merit. In 
every case, certainly, the proportions are less than we could 
desire, but they are not negligible. 

Secondly, it is important to remember that, in judging a 
culture, it is not enough to concentrate on habits which 
coincide with those of the observer. To the highly literate 
observer there is always a temptation to assume that read 
ing plays as large a part in the lives of most people as it 
does in his own. But if he compares his own kind of read 
ing with the reading-matter that is most widely distributed, 
he is not really comparing levels of culture. He is, in fact, 
comparing what is produced for people to whom reading is 
a major activity with that produced for people to whom it 
is, at best, minor. To the degree that he acquires a sub 
stantial proportion of his ideas and feelings from what he 
reads he will assume, again wrongly, that the ideas and 


feelings of the majority will be similarly conditioned. But, 
for good or ill, the majority of people do not yet give read 
ing this importance in their lives; their ideas and feelings 
are, to a large extent, still moulded by a wider and more 
complex pattern of social and family life. There is an evi 
dent danger of delusion, to the highly literate person, if he 
supposes that he can judge the quality of general living by 
primary reference to the reading artifacts. He will, in par 
ticular, be driven to this delusion if he retains, even in its 
most benevolent form, the concept of the majority of other 
people as 'masses', whom he observes as a kind of block. 
The error resembles that of the narrow reformer who sup 
poses that farm labourers and village craftsmen were once 
uneducated, merely because they could not read. Many 
highly educated people have, in fact, been so driven in on 
their reading, as a stabilizing habit, that they fail to notice 
that there are other forms of skilled, intelligent, creative 
activity: not only the cognate forms of theatre, concert and 
picture-gallery; but a whole range of general skills, from 
gardening, metalwork and carpentry to active politics. The 
contempt for many of these activities, which is always la 
tent in the highly literate, is a mark of the observers' limits, 
not those of the activities themselves. Neglect of the extraor 
dinary popularity of many of these activities, as evidence 
of the quality of living in contemporary society, is the result 
of partisan selection for the reasons given. 

This point comes to be of particular importance when we 
remember that the general tendency of modem develop 
ment has been to bring many more levels of culture within 
the general context of literacy than was ever previously the 
case. A number of tastes which would formerly have been 
gratified in pre-literate and therefore largely unrecorded 
ways are now catered for and even fostered in print. Or, to 
put it in another way, the historical counterpart of a mod 
ern popular newspaper, in its informing function, is not an 
earlier minority newspaper, but that complex of rumour and 
travellers' tales which then served the majority with news of 
a kind. This is not to surrender the finest literacy we have, 
which at all times offers a standard for the newly literate 


functions. But, equally, to look at the matter in this way 
helps us to keep a just sense of proportion. 

Our problem is one of adapting our social training to a 
widely literate culture. It is clear that the highest standards 
of literacy in contemporary society depend on a level of 
instruction and training far above that which is commonly 
available. For this reason it is still much too early to con 
clude that a majority culture is necessarily low in taste. The 
danger of such a judgement is that it offers a substitute 
righteousness the duty of defending a standard against 
the mob. Right action is not of this kind, but is a matter of 
ensuring that the technical changes which have made our 
culture more dependent on literate forms are matched by a 
proportionate increase in training for literacy in its full 
sense. It is obvious that we have allowed the technical 
changes to keep far ahead of the educational changes, and 
the reasons for this neglect, which in its own terms is so 
plainly foolish, He in a combination of interest and inertia, 
deeply rooted in the organization of society. An interpreta 
tion of the majority as a mob has served, paradoxically, to 
still or weaken the most active consciences in this matter. 
Loutishness is always easy, and there can be few things 
more loutish than to turn, at the end of a long framing, and 
sneer at those who are just entering on it, and who, har 
assed and insecure, are making the inevitable mistakes. 

Such a view might settle the matter if we could be sure 
that our only problem was to ensure that educational pro 
vision matched the extension of literacy. A generation of 
work would lie ahead of us, but the path at least would be 
clear. Yet evidently such questions are not settled within a 
specialized field. The content of education, as a role, is the 
content of our actual social relations, and will only change 
as part of a wider change. Further, the actual operation of 
the new techniques is extremely complicated, in social 
terms, because of their economic bearings. The technical 
changes made necessary a great increase in the amount 
and concentration of capital, and we are still on the upward 
curve of this increase, as is most evident in the manage 
ment of newspapers and television. These facts have led, in 
our society, to an extreme concentration of production of 


work of this kind, and to extraordinary needs and oppor 
tunities for controlling its distribution. Our new services 
tend to require so much capital that only a very large audi 
ence can sustain them. This in itself is not a difficulty; the 
potential audience is there. But everything depends on the 
attitude of those who control these services to such an audi 
ence. Our broadcasting corporation, for example, holds, in 
general, a reasonable interpretation of its particular respon 
sibilities in this situation, even if this is no more surely 
founded than in a vestigial paternalism. Yet we are con 
stantly being made aware how precarious this interpreta 
tion must be, under the pressures which come from a 
different attitude. The scale of capital involved has given an 
entry to a kind of person who, a hundred years ago, would 
never have thought of running a newspaper or a theatre. 
The opportunity to exploit the difficulties of a transitional 
culture was open, and we have been foolish enough to allow 
it to be widely taken. The temptation to make a profit out of 
ignorance or inexperience is present in most societies. The 
existence, in our own, of powerful media of persuasion and 
suggestion made it virtually irresistible. The cheapjack, 
whether he is the kind of vagrant who attached himself to 
Huckleberry Finn, or the more settled individual of our own 
society, always interprets his victims as an ignorant mob; 
this, to him, is his justification. It is a question for society, 
however, whether it will allow such an interpretation and 
its consequent activities, not merely to lead the fugitive ex 
istence of a vagrant, but, as now, to establish itself in some 
of the seats of power, with a large and settled material 

The ways of controlling such activities are well known; 
we lack only the will. All I am concerned to point out is 
that the cheapjack has had allies of a surprising kind. He 
has an ally in whoever concedes his interpretation of his 
fellow-beings. He has an ally, also, in that old kind of demo 
crat who rested on the innate nobility of man. The delusions 
which led to this unholy alliance are of a complementary 
kind. The old democrat is often too sure of man's natural 
nobility to concern himself with the means of its common 
assurance. The new sceptic observes what happens when 


such means are not assured, and seeks an explanation in 
man's natural baseness. The failure, in each case, is a failure 
of consciousness of change. The old rural culture, which is 
so widely (and sometimes sentimentally) admired, rested 
on generations of experience within a general continuity 
of common condition. The speed and magnitude of the 
changes which broke up this settlement were never fully 
realized, and, even if they had been, the search for a new 
common control was bound to be slow. It is now becoming 
clear, from all kinds of evidence, that a society can, if it 
chooses, train its members in almost any direction, with 
only an occasional failure. The failures will be interpreted 
in terms of virtue or of recidivism, according to circum 
stances. But what is important is not that we are all mal 
leableany culture and any civilization depend on this 
but the nature and origin of the shaping process. The con 
tributions of old democrat and new sceptic are alike irrele 
vant to this decisive question; and the cheapjack has 
jumped in on the irrelevance and the general confusion. 
The local newspaper, of all things, stands as a most im 
portant piece of controlling evidence. For it is read by 
people at least as simple, at least as poorly educated, as the 
readers of the worst strip paper. Yet in method and content 
it is still remarkably like the older journalism of minority 
reading, even to its faults. The devices which are said to be 
necessary to reach the ordinary mind are not employed, yet 
the paper is commonly read and understood. This is a case 
which, because of special circumstances, fflumines the 
general problem. Produced for a known community on a 
basis of common interest and common knowledge, the local 
newspaper is not governed by a *mass* interpretation. Its 
communication, in fact, rests on a community, in sharp 
contrast with most national newspapers, which are pro 
duced for a market, interpreted by 'mass' criteria. The 
methods of the popular newspaper do not rest on the fact 
that simple people read it, for then the local paper would 
hardly be read or understood at all. They rest on the fact 
that it and its readers are organized in certain kinds of eco 
nomic and social relation. If we realize this we will concen 
trate our attention, not on man's natural goodness or bad- 

332 CULTURE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

ness, but on the nature of the controlling social relations. 
The idea of the masses, and the technique of observing 
certain aspects of mass-behaviour selected aspects of a 
'public' rather than the balance of an actual community- 
formed the natural ideology of those who sought to control 
the new system and to profit by it. To the degree that we 
reject this kind of exploitation, we shall reject its ideology, 
and seek a new definition of communication. 

Communication and Community 

Any governing body will seek to implant the Bright* ideas 
in the minds of those whom it governs, but there is no 
government in exile. The minds of men are shaped by their 
whole experience, and the most skilful transmission of ma 
terial which this experience does not confirm will fail to 
communicate. Communication is not only transmission; it 
is also reception and response. In a transitional culture it 
will be possible for skilful transmission to affect aspects of 
activity and belief, sometimes decisively. But, confusedly, 
the whole sum of experience will reassert itself, and inhabit 
its own world. Mass-communication has had its evident 
successes, in a social and economic system to which its 
methods correspond. But it has failed, and will continue to 
fail, when its transmissions encounter, not a confused un 
certainty, but a considered and formulated experience. 

Observing this, the practitioners of mass-communication 
rum to the improvement of what they call their science: 
that is to say, to scraps of applied psychology and linguistic. 
It is of the greatest importance to attend to what they are 
doing, but at the same time any real theory of communica 
tion is a theory of community. The techniques of mass- 
communication will be irrelevant to a genuine theory of 
communication, to the degree that we judge them to be 
conditioned, not by a community, but by the lack or in 
completeness of a community. It is very difficult to think 
clearly about communication, because the pattern of our 
thinking about community is, normally, dominative. We 
tend, in consequence, if not to be attracted, at least to be 
preoccupied by dominative techniques. Communication 


becomes a science of penetrating the mass mind and of 
registering an impact there. It is not easy to think along 
different Mnes. 

It is easy to recognize a dominative theory if, for other 
reasons, we think it to be bad. A theory that a minority 
should profit by employing a majority in wars of gain is 
easily rejected. A theory that a minority should profit by 
employing a mass of wage-slaves is commonly rejected. A 
theory that a minority should reserve the inheritance of 
human knowledge to itself, and deny it to the majority, is 
occasionally rejected. But (we say) nobody, or only a few 
bad people, can be found to support such theories. We are 
all democrats now, and such things are unthinkable. As a 
matter of fact, mass-communication has served and is in 
some places still serving all the theories I have mentioned. 
The whole theory of mass-communication depends, essen 
tially, on a minority in some way exploiting a majority. We 
are not all democrats now. 

Yet "exploiting', of course, is a tendentious word. What 
of the case where a minority is seeking to educate a ma 
jority, for that majority's ultimate good? Such minorities 
abound, seeking to educate majorities in the virtues of 
capitalism, communism, culture, contraception. Surely here 
mass-communication is necessary and urgent, to bring 
news of the good life, and of the ways to get it, and the 
dangers to avoid in getting it, to the prejudiced, servile, 
ignorant and multiplying masses? If workmen are impover 
ishing themselves and others by restrictive practices; if 
peasants are starving themselves and others by adhering to 
outdated ways; if men and women are growing up in ig 
norance, when so much is known; if families are breeding 
more children than can be fed: surely, urgently, they must 
be told this, for their own good? 

The objection, as a matter of fact, is not to telling anyone 
anything. It is a question of how one tells them, and how 
one would expect to be told oneself. Nor is this merely a 
matter of politeness, of politeness being the best policy. It 
is really a matter of how one would be told oneself: telling 
as an aspect of living; learning as an element of experience. 
The very failure of so many of the items of transmission 

334 CULTUKE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

which I have listed is not an accident, but the result of a 
failure to understand communication. The failure is due to 
an arrogant preoccupation with transmission, which rests on 
the assumption that the common answers have been found 
and need only to be applied. But people will (damn them, 
do you say?) learn only by experience, and this, normally, 
is uneven and slow. A governing body, in its impatience, 
will often be able to enforce, by any of a number of kinds 
of pressure, an apparent conformity. This can on occasion 
be made substantial by subsequent experience; such a fact 
is the sharpest temptation to any dominative policy that 
events will substantiate what at first people would not ac 
cept. As a matter of politics, this is perhaps the most dif 
ficult contemporary issue. As a matter of communication, 
however, such a point only substantiates what has already 
been said; it will be the experience that teaches. In a 
society which lacks the experience of democratic practice, 
a zealous refonning minority will often be forced to take 
this kind of chance. Yet, even here, it has great dangers; 
the process of learning depends so much on the conscious 
need to learn, and such a need is not easily imposed on 

It is clear, on the other hand, that even in contemporary 
democratic communities the dominative attitude to com 
munication is still paramount. Almost every kind of leader 
seems to be genuinely afraid of trusting the processes of 
majority discussion and decision. As a matter of practice this 
is usually whittled away to the merest formula. For this, the 
rooted distrust of the majority, who are seen as masses or 
more politely as the public, is evidently responsible. Demo 
cratic theory remains theory, and this practical scepticism 
breeds the theoretical scepticism which is again becoming, 
even in our own society, dangerously marked. The conse 
quences are unsatisfactory from most points of view. If 
people cannot have official democracy, they will have un 
official democracy, in any of its possible forms, from the 
armed revolt or riot, through the 'unofficial* strike or restric 
tion of labour, to die quietest but most alarming form a 
general sullenness and withdrawal of interest. Faced with 
this set of facts, it is always possible to fall back on the other 


part of the 'mass' interpretation; to see these symptoms as 

'proving* the imfitness of the massesthey will riot, they 
will strike, they will not take an interest such is the nature 
of that brute, the mob. I am arguing, on the contrary, that 
these characteristic marks of our civilization are not inter- 
pretable in this mode; that they are, rather, symptoms of a 
basic failure in communication. It is possible to say -this, and 
to conclude that the answer lies in educational projects, the 
feeding of information, or a new publicity drive. But this 
is to go on thinking of communication as transmission alone, 
a renewal, perhaps by new means, of the long dominative 
effort. The point is very difficult to see, in practice, when 
a group is certain that its case is right and urgent, and that 
for their own. good, and urgently, people must be brought to 
recognize this. 

Yet the uneasy symptoms are, precisely, a response to a 
dominative organization. In a revolt, in most riots, in many 
strikes, it is a positive response: the assertion of a different 
land of answer. The answer that is then finally adopted will 
depend on the balance of power. But often it is less formu 
lated than this: a confused, vague reaction against the 
dominative habit. What I have called sullenness is the ob 
vious example of this. I think it is now a very prevalent 
reaction to the dominative kinds of mass-communication. 
People don't, of course, believe all they read in the news 
papers, and this, often, is just as well. But for one small 
area of discriminating reading, almost always the product of 
training, there is a huge area of general suspicious disbelief, 
which, while on particular occasions it may be prophylactic, 
is as a general habit enfeebling. Inertia and apathy have 
always been employed by the governed as a comparatively 
safe weapon against their governors. Some governing bodies 
will accept this, as at least being quiet. But in our own 
society, because of the way we produce, there is so large a 
degree of necessary common interest and mutual effort that 
any widespread withdrawal of interest, any general mood 
of disbelief, can quite certainly be disastrous. The answer to 
it, however, does not He in exhortation. It lies, rather, in 
conceding the practice of democracy, which alone can sub 
stantiate the theory. It lies, in terms of communication, in 


adopting a different attitude to transmission, one which 
will ensure that its origins are genuinely multiple, that all 
the sources have access to the common channels. This is 
not possible until it is realized that a transmission is always 
an offering, and that this fact must determine its mood: 
it is not an attempt to dominate, but to communicate, to 
achieve reception and response. Active reception, and living 
response, depend in their turn on an effective community 
of experience, and their quality, as certainly, depends on a 
recognition of practical equality. The inequalities of many 
kinds which still divide our community make effective com 
munication difficult or impossible. We lack a genuinely 
common experience, save in certain rare and dangerous mo 
ments of crisis. What we are paying for this lack, in every 
kind of currency, is now sufficiently evident. We need a 
common culture, not for the sake of an abstraction, but 
because we shall not survive without it. 

I have referred to equality, but with some hesitation, for 
the word is now commonly confusing. The theoretical em 
phasis on equality, in modern society, is in general an op 
ponent response; it is less a positive goal than an attack on 
inequality, which has been practically emphasized in exact 
proportion to equalitarian ideas. The only equality that is 
important, or indeed conceivable, is equality of being. In 
equality in the various aspects of man is inevitable and 
even welcome; it is the basis of any rich and complex Me. 
The inequality that is evil is inequality which denies the 
essential equality of being. Such inequality, in any of its 
forms, in practice rejects, depersonalizes, degrades in 
grading, other human beings. On such practice a structure 
of cruelty, exploitation and the crippling of human energy 
is easily raised. The masses, the dominative mood, the re 
jection of culture, are its local testaments in human theory. 

A common culture is not, at any level, an equal culture. 
Yet equality of being is always necessary to it, or common 
experience will not be valued, A common culture can place 
no absolute restrictions on entry to any of its activities: this 
is the reality of the claim to equality of opportunity. The 
claim to such opportunity is of course based on the desire 
to become unequal, but this can mean any of a number of 


things. A desired inequality which will in practice deny the 

essential equality of being, is not compatible with a culture 
in common. Suet inequalities, which cannot be afforded, 
have continually to be defined, out of the common experi 
ence. But there are many inequalities which do not harm 
this essential equality, and certain of these are necessary, 
and need to be encouraged. The point becomes practical in 
examples, and I would suggest these. An inequality in other 
than personal property that is to say an inequality in 
ownership of the means of Me and production may be 
found intolerable because in practice it may deny the basic 
processes of equality of being. Inequality in a particular 
faculty, however, or unequal developments of knowledge, 
skill and effort, may not deny essential equality: a physicist 
will be glad to learn from a better physicist, and will not, 
because he is a good physicist, think himself a better man 
than a good composer, a good chess-player, a good carpen 
ter, a good runner. Nor, in a common culture, will he think 
himself a better human being than a child, an old woman, 
or a cripple, who may lack the criterion (in itself inade 
quate) of useful service. The kind of respect for oneself 
and one's work, which is necessary to continue at all, is a 
different matter from a claim to inequality of being, such as 
would entitle one to deny or dominate the being of another. 
The inequalities which are intolerable are those which lead 
to such denial or domination. 

But some activities are better than others, the objection 
is returned. An insistence on equality may be, in practice, a 
denial of value. I have followed the course of this objection 
with some care, for it is important indeed. Is not a teacher 
to dominate a child, so that he may learn? Some facts will 
be right, and others wrong: the teacher must insist on their 
distinction, whether or not it is right to dominate. I agree, 
but most good teaching, in fact, is a transmission of the 
skills of discrimination alongside statements of the conclu 
sions and judgements which have been received, and which 
have, provisionally, to be used. This offering, alike of a 
statement to be confirmed, and of the means of decision, is 
the proper working of general communication. A child will 
only learn the skills if he practises them; a teacher will 


only be skilled if he is aware of the process while offering 
the product. The utmost emphasis on distinctions of value, 
In all the things that man makes and does, is not an em 
phasis on inequality of being. It is, rather, a common proc 
ess of learning, which, indeed, will only ever be under 
taken if the primary concession of equality of being, which 
alone can remove such a process from the dominative 
sphere, is made. Nobody can raise anybody else's cultural 
standard. The most that can be done is to transmit the skills, 
which are not personal but general human property, and at 
the same time to give open access to all that has been made 
and done. You cannot stop a child reading a horror comic, 
or a man reading a strip newspaper, by order (unless you 
attempt the indignity of physical power over him), or even 
by argument, by telling him that it is bad. You can only 
give him the opportunity of learning what has been gener 
ally and commonly learned about reading, and see that he 
has access to al that is available to be read. In the end, and 
rightly, his choice will in any case be his own. A man's 
concern for value for standards, as we sayproperly ex 
presses itself in the effort towards a community of experi 
ence on which these standards can rest. Further, if his con 
cern for value is something more than dogma, he will hold 
himself open to learn other vaules, in the shaping of a new 
common experience. The refusal of either course is a petu 
lant timidity. If one cannot believe in men, and in their 
common efforts, it is perhaps only in caricature that one 
can believe in oneself. 

Culture and Which Way of Life? 

We live in a transitional society, and the idea of culture, 
too often, has been identified with one or other of the forces 
which the transition contains. Culture is the product of the 
old leisured classes who seek now to defend it against new 
and destructive forces. Culture is the inheritance of the new 
rising class, which contains the humanity of the future; this 
class seeks, now, to free it from its restrictions. We say 
things like this to each other, and glower. The one good 
thing, it seems, is that all the contending parties are keen 


enough on culture to want to be identified with it. But 
then, we are none of us referees in this; we are all in the 
game, and playing in one or other direction. 

I want to say something about the idea of 'working-class 
culture', because this seems to me to be a key issue in our 
own time, and one in which there is a considerable element 
of misunderstanding. I have indicated already that we can 
not fairly or usefully describe the bulk of the material 
produced by the new means of communication as 'working- 
class culture'. For neither is it by any means produced ex 
clusively for this class, nor, in any important degree, is it 
produced by them. To this negative definition we must add 
another: that 'working-class culture*, in our society, is not 
to be understood as the small amount of 'proletarian' 
writing and art which exists. The appearance of such work 
has been useful, not only in its more self-conscious forms, 
but also in such material as the post-Industrial ballads, 
which were worth collecting. We need to be aware of this 
work, but it is to be seen as a valuable dissident element 
rather than as a culture. The traditional popular culture of 
England was, if not annihilated, at least fragmented and 
weakened by the dislocations of the Industrial Revolution. 
What is left, with what in the new conditions has been 
newly made, is small in quantity and narrow in range. It 
exacts respect, but it is in no sense an alternative culture. 

This very point of an alternative is extremely difficult, in 
terms of theory. If the major part of our culture, in the sense 
of intellectual and imaginative work, is to be caled, as the 
Marxists call it, bourgeois, it is natural to look for an alter 
native culture, and to call it proletarian. Yet it is very doubt 
ful whether Bourgeois culture* is a useful term. The body 
of intellectual and imaginative work which each generation 
receives as its traditional culture is always, and necessarily, 
something more than the product of a single class. It is not 
only that a considerable part of it will have survived from 
much earlier periods than the immediately pre-existing 
form of society; so that, for instance, literature, philosophy 
and other work surviving from before, say, 1600, cannot be 
taken as 'bourgeois'. It is also that, even within a society in 
which a particular class is dominant, it is evidently possible 


both for members of other classes to contribute to the com 
mon stock, and for such contributions to be unaffected by 
or in opposition to the ideas and values of the dominant 
class. The area of a culture, it would seem, is usually pro 
portionate to the area of a language rather than to the area 
of a class. It is true that a dominant class can to a large ex 
tent control the transmission and distribution of the whole 
common inheritance; such control, where it exists, needs to 
be noted as a fact about that class. It is true also that a 
tradition is always selective, and that there will always be a 
tendency for this process of selection to be related to and 
even governed by the interests of the class that is dominant. 
These factors make it likely that there will be qualitative 
changes in the traditional culture when there is a shift of 
class power, even before a newly ascendant class makes its 
own contributions. Points of this kind need to be stressed, 
but the particular stress given by describing our existent 
culture as bourgeois culture is in several ways misleading. 
It can, for example, seriously mislead those who would now 
consider themselves as belonging to the dominant class. If 
they are encouraged, even by their opponents, to think of 
the existing culture (in the narrow sense) as their particu 
lar product and legacy, they will deceive themselves and 
others. For they will be encouraged to argue that, if their 
class position goes, the culture goes too; that standards de 
pend on the restriction of a culture to the class which, since 
it has produced it, alone understands it. On the other hand, 
those who believe themselves to be representatives of a new 
rising class will, if they accept the proposition of bourgeois 
culture', either be tempted to neglect a common human in 
heritance, or, more intelligently, be perplexed as to how, 
and how much of, this bourgeois culture is to be taken over. 
The categories are crude and mechanical in either position. 
Men who share a common language share the inheritance 
of an intellectual and literary tradition which is necessarily 
and constantly revalued with every shift in experience. The 
manufacture of an artificial 'working-class culture*, in op 
position to this common tradition, is merely foolish. A 
society in which the working class had become dominant 
would, of course, produce new valuations and new contri- 


butions. But the process would be extremely complex, be 
cause of the complexity of the inheritance, and nothing is 
now to be gained by diminishing this complexity to a crude 

The contrast between a minority and a popular culture 
cannot be absolute. It is not even a matter of levels, for such 
a term implies distinct and discontinuous stages, and this is 
by no means always the case. In Russian society in the nine 
teenth century one finds perhaps the clearest example of a 
discontinuous culture within recent history; this is marked, 
it should be noted, by a substantial degree of rejection of 
even the common language by the ruling minority. But in 
English society there has never been this degree of separa 
tion, since English emerged as the common language. There 
has been marked unevenness of distribution, amounting at 
times to virtual exclusion of the majority, and there has 
been some unevenness of contribution, although in no 
period has this approached the restriction of contribution to 
members of any one class. Further, since the beginning of 
the nineteenth century it has been difficult for any observer 
to feel that the care of intellectual and imaginative work 
could be safely entrusted to, or identified with, any existing 
social or economic class. It was in relation to this situation 
that the very idea of culture was, as we have seen, de 

The most difficult task confronting us, in any period 
where there is a marked shift of social power, is the compli 
cated process of revaluation of the inherited tradition. The 
common language, because in itself it is so crucial to this 
matter, provides an excellent instance. It is clearly of vital 
importance to a culture that its common language should 
not decline in strength, richness and flexibility; that it 
should, further, be adequate to express new experience, 
and to clarify change. But a language like English is still 
evolving, and great harm can be done to it by the imposi 
tion of crude categories of class. It is obvious that since the 
development, in the nineteenth century, of the new defini 
tion of 'standard English*, particular uses of the common 
language have been taken and abused for the purposes of 
class distinction. Yet the dialect which is normally equated 

342 CULTOBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

with standard English has no necessary superiority over 
other dialects. Certain of the grammatical clarifications 
have a common importance, but not all even of these. On 
the other hand, certain selected sounds have been given a 
cardinal authority which derives from no known law of 
language, but simply from the fact that they are habitually 
made by persons who, for other reasons, possess social and 
economic influence. The conversion of this Mnd of arbitrary 
selection into a criterion of 'good 7 or 'correct' or 'pure' Eng 
lish is merely a subterfuge. Modern communications make 
for the growth of uniformity, but the necessary selection 
and clarification have been conducted, on the whole, on 
grounds quite irrelevant to language. It is still thought, for 
instance, that a double negative (1 don't want none') is 
incorrect English, although millions of English-speaking 
persons use it regularly: not, indeed, as a misunderstanding 
of the rule, which they might be thought too ignorant to 
apprehend; but as the continuation of a habit which has 
been in the language continuously since Chaucer. The 
broad V, in such words as 'class', is now taken as the mark 
of an 'educated person', although till the eighteenth cen 
tury it was mainly a rustic habit, and as such despised. Or 
'ain't', which in the eighteenth century was often a mark of 
breeding, is now supposed to be a mark of vulgarity: in 
both cases, the valuation is the merest chance. The extraor 
dinary smugness about aspirates, vowel-sounds, the choice 
of this or that synonym ('couch' *sofa*), which has for so 
long been a normal element of middle-class humour, is, 
after all, not a concern for good English, but parochialism. 
(The current controversy about what are called *U* and 
*non-IT speech habits clearly illustrates this; it is an aspect, 
not of major social differences, but of the long difficulty of 
drawing the lines between the upper and lower sections of 
the middle class.) Yet, while this is true, the matter is com 
plicated by the fact that in a society where a particular class 
and hence a particular use of the common language is domi 
nant a large part of the literature, carrying as it does a body 
of vital common experience, will be attracted to the domi 
nant language mode. At the same time, a national literature, 
as English has never ceased to be, will, while containing this 


relation, contain also elements of the whole culture and 
language. If we are to understand the process of a selective 
tradition, we shall not think o exclusive areas of culture but 
of degrees of shifting attachment and interaction, which a 
crude theory either of class or of standards is incompetent 
to interpret. 

A culture can never be reduced to its artifacts while it is 
being lived. Yet the temptation to attend only to external 
evidence is always strong. It is argued, for instance, that the 
working class is becoming ^bourgeois*, because it is dressing 
like the middle class, living in semi-detached houses, ac 
quiring cars and washing-machines and television sets. But 
it is not t>ouTgeois* to possess objects of utility, nor to enjoy 
a high material standard of living. The working class does 
not become bourgeois by owning the new products, any 
more than the bourgeois ceases to be bourgeois as the ob 
jects he owns change in kind. Those who regret such a de 
velopment among members of the working class are the 
victims of a prejudice. An admiration of the 'simple poor* 
is no new thing, but it has rarely been found, except as a 
desperate rationalization, among the poor themselves. It is 
the product either of satiety or of a judgement that the 
material advantages are purchased at too high a human 
cost. The first ground must be left to those who are sated; 
the second, which is more important, is capable of a false 
transference. If the advantages were 'bourgeois' because 
they rested on economic exploitation, they do not continue 
to be Bourgeois' if they can be assured without such ex 
ploitation or by its diminution. The worker's envy of the 
middle-class man is not a desire to be that man, but to have 
the same kind of possessions. We all like to think of our 
selves as a standard, and I can see that it is genuinely diffi 
cult for the English middle class to suppose that the work 
ing class is not desperately anxious to become just like itself. 
I am afraid this must be unlearned. The great majority of 
English working people want only the middle-class material 
standard and for the rest want to go on being themselves. 
One should not be too quick to call this vulgar materialism. 
It is wholly reasonable to want the means of life in such 
abundance as is possible. This is the materialism of material 

344 CU1LTUBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

provision, to which we are all, quite rightly, attentive. The 
working people, who have felt themselves long deprived 
of such means in any adequacy, intend to get them and to 
keep them if they can. It would need more evidence than 
this to show that they are becoming vulgar materialists, or 
that they are becoming ^bourgeois'. 

The question then, perhaps, is whether there is any 
meaning left in bourgeois? Is there any point, indeed, in 
continuing to think in class terms at al? Is not industrialism, 
by its own momentum, producing a culture that is best 
described as classless? Such questions, today, command a 
significant measure of assent, but again, while drawing sup 
port from the crudities of certain kinds of class interpreta 
tion, they rest, essentially, on an external attitude alike to 
culture and to class. If we think of culture, as it is important 
to do, in terms of a body of intellectual and imaginative 
work, we caa see that with the extension of education the 
distribution of this culture is becoming more even, and, at 
the same time, new work is being addressed to a public 
wider than a single class. Yet a culture is not only a body of 
intellectual and imaginative work; it is also and essentially 
a whole way of life. The basis of a distinction between 
bourgeois and working-class culture is only secondarily in 
the field of intellectual and imaginative work, and even here 
it is complicated, as we have seen, by the common elements 
resting on a common language. The primary distinction is 
to be sought in the whole way o life, and here, again, we 
must not confine ourselves to such evidence as housing, 
dress and modes of leisure. Industrial production tends to 
produce uniformity in such matters, but the vital distinc 
tion lies at a different level The crucial distinguishing ele 
ment in English life since the Industrial Revolution is not 
language, not dress, not leisure for these indeed will tend 
to imiformity. The crucial distinction is between alternative 
ideas of the nature of social relationship. 

'Bourgeois* is a signii cant term because it marks that 
version of social relationship which we usualy call individ 
ualism; that is to say, an idea of society as a neutral area 
within which each individual is free to pursue his own de 
velopment and Ms own advantage as a natural right. The 


course of recent history is marked by a long fighting retreat 
from this idea in its purest form, and the latest defenders 
would seem to the earliest to have lost almost the entire 
field. Yet the interpretation is still dominant: the exertion of 
social power is thought necessary only in so far as it will 
protect individuals in this basic right to set their own course. 
The classical formula of the retreat is that, in certain de 
fined ways, no individual has a right to harm others. But, 
characteristically, this harm has been primarily interpreted 
in relation to the individual pursuit no individual has a 
right to prevent others from doing this kind of thing. 

The reforming bourgeois modification of this version of 
society is the idea of service, to which I shall return. But 
both this idea and the individualist idea can be sharply 
contrasted with the idea that we properly associate with the 
working class: an idea which, whether it is called com 
munism, socialism or cooperation, regards society neither 
as neutral nor as protective, but as the positive means for 
all kinds of development, including individual development. 
Development and advantage are not individually but com 
monly interpreted. The provision of the means of life will, 
alike in production and distribution, be collective and mu 
tual. Improvement is sought, not in the opportunity to es 
cape from one's class, or to make a career, but in the general 
and controlled advance of all. The human fund is regarded 
as in all respects common, and freedom of access to it as a 
right constituted by one's humanity; yet such access, in 
whatever kind, is common or it is nothing. Not the individ 
ual, but the whole society, will move. 

The distinction between these versions of society has 
been blurred by two factors: the idea of service, which is 
the great achievement of the Victorian middle class, and 
is deeply inherited by its successors; and the complication 
of the working-class idea by the fact that England's posi 
tion as an imperial power has tended to limit the sense of 
community to national (and, in the context, imperialist) 
lines. Further, the versions are blurred by a misunderstand 
ing of the nature of class. The contending ideas, and the 
actions which follow from them, are the property of that 
part of a group of people, similarly circumstanced, which 


has become conscious of its position and of its own attitude 
to this position. Class feeling is a mode, rather than a uni 
form possession of all the individuals who might, objec 
tively, be assigned to that class. When we speak, for in 
stance, of a working-class idea, we do not mean that all 
working people possess it, or even approve of it. We mean, 
rather, that this is the essential idea embodied in the or 
ganizations and institutions which that class creates: the 
working-class movement as a tendency, rather than all 
working-class people as individuals. It is foolish to interpret 
Individuals in rigid class terms, because class is a collective 
mode and not a person. At the same time, in the interpreta 
tion of ideas and institutions, we can speak properly in class 
terms. It depends, at any time, on which kind of fact we 
are considering. To dismiss an individual because of his 
class, or to judge a relationship with him solely in class 
terms, is to reduce humanity to an abstraction. But, also, 
to pretend that there are no collective modes is to deny the 
plain facts. 

We may now see what is properly meant by 'working- 
class culture*. It is not proletarian art, or council houses, or 
a particular use of language; it is, rather, the basic col 
lective idea, and the institutions, manners, habits of thought 
and intentions which proceed from this. Bourgeois culture, 
similarly, is the basic individualist idea and the institutions, 
manners, habits of thought and intentions which proceed 
from that. In our culture as a whole, there is both a con 
stant interaction between these ways of life and an area 
which can properly be described as common to or under 
lying both. The working class, because of its position, has 
not, since the Industrial Revolution, produced a culture in 
the narrower sense. The culture which it has produced, 
and which it is important to recognize, is the collective 
democratic institution, whether in the trade unions, the co 
operative movement or a political party. Working-class cul 
ture, in the stage through which it has been passing, is 
primarily social (in that it has created institutions) rather 
than individual (in particular intellectual or imaginative 
work) . When it is considered in context, it can be seen as a 
very remarkable creative achievement. 


To those whose meaning o culture is intellectual or im 
aginative work, such an achievement may be meaningless. 
The values which are properly attached to such work can, 
at times, seem overriding. On this, I would only point out 
that while it may have seemed reasonable to Burke to an 
ticipate the trampling down of learning by the irruption of 
the 'swinish multitude*, this has not in fact happened, and 
the swinish multitude itself has done much to prevent it 
happening. The record of the working-class movement in 
its attitudes to education, to learning and to art is on the 
whole a good record. It has sometimes wrongly interpreted, 
often neglected where it did not know. But it has never 
sought to destroy the institutions of this kind of culture; it 
has, on the contrary, pressed for their extension, for their 
wider social recognition, and, in oiar own time, for the ap 
plication of a larger part of our material resources to their 
maintenance and development. Such a record will do more 
than stand comparison with that of the class by which the 
working class has been most actively and explicitly op 
posed. This, indeed, is the curious incident of the swine in 
the night. As the light came, and we could look around, it 
appeared that the trampling, which we had all heard, did 
not after all come from them. 

The Idea of Community 

The development of the idea of culture has, throughout, 
been a criticism of what has been called the bourgeois idea 
of society. The contributors to its meaning have started 
from widely different positions, and have reached widely 
various attachments and loyalties. But they have been alike 
in this, that they have been unable to think of society as a 
merely neutral area, or as an abstract regulating mecha 
nism. The stress has fallen on the positive function of so 
ciety, on the fact that the values of individual men are 
rooted in society, and on the need to think and feel in 
these common terms. This was, indeed, a profound and 
necessary response to the disintegrating pressures which 
were faced. 

Yet, according to their different positions, the idea of 


community, on which, all in general agree, has been dif 
ferently felt and defined. In our own day we have two ma 
jor interpretations, alike opposed to bourgeois liberalism, 
but equally, in practice, opposed to each other. These are 
the idea of service, and the idea of solidarity. These have in 
the main been developed by the middle class and the work 
ing class respectively. From Coleridge to Tawney the idea 
of function, and thence of service to the community, has 
been most valuably stressed, in opposition to the individual 
ist claim. The stress has been confirmed by the generations 
of training which substantiate the ethical practice of our 
professions, and of our public and civil service. As against 
the practice of laissez-faire,, and of self-service, this has 
been a major achievement which has done much for the 
peace and welfare of our society. Yet the working-class 
ethic, of solidarity, has also been a major achievement, and 
it is the difference of this from the idea of service which 
must now be stressed. 

A very large part of English middle-class education is 
devoted to the training of servants. This is much more its 
characteristic than a training for leadership, as the stress 
on conformity and on respect for authority shows. In so far 
as it is, by definition, the training of upper servants, it in 
cludes, of course, the instilling of that kind of confidence 
which will enable the upper servants to supervise and direct 
the lower servants. Order must be maintained there, by 
good management, and in this respect the function is not 
service but government. Yet the upper servant is not to 
think of his own interests. He must subordinate these to a 
larger good, which is called the Queen's peace, or national 
security, or law and order, or the public weal. This has 
been the charter of many thousands of devoted lives, and 
it is necessary to respect it even where we cannot agree 
with it. 

I was not trained to this ethic, and when I encountered 
it, in late adolescence, I had to spend a lot of time trying to 
understand it, through men whom I respected and who 
had been formed by it. The criticism I now make of it is in 
this kind of good faith. It seerns to me inadequate because 
in practice it serves, at every level, to maintain and confirm 


the status quo. This was wrong, for me, because the status 

quo, in practice, was a denial of equity to the men and 
women among whom I had grown up, the lower servants, 
whose lives were governed by the existing distributions of 
property, remuneration, education and respect. The real 
personal unselfishness, which ratified the description as 
service, seemed to me to exist within a larger selfishness, 
which was only not seen because it was idealized as the 
necessary form of a civilization, or rationalized as a natural 
distribution corresponding to worth, effort and intelligence. 
I could not share in these versions, because I thought, and 
still think, that the sense of injustice which the lower serv 
ants' felt was real and justified. One cannot in conscience 
then become, when invited, an upper servant in an estab 
lishment that one thus radically disapproves. 

Now it is true that much of this service has gone to 
improving the conditions of the lower servants', but, be 
cause of its nature, this has been improvement within, a 
framework which is thought, in its main lines, inviolate. I 
have seen this psychology of service extend to the working- 
class movement itself, until the phraseology of 'making a 
man a useful citizen', 'equipping him to serve the commu 
nity', has become common form. A particular climax of 
this, for me, was a book called How we are Governed, 
written by a left-wing democrat. It is at this point, on the 
basis of a different social ethic, that one becomes awkward. 

How we are Governed, as an explanation of democracy, 
is an expression of the idea of service at its psychological 
limit. The break through to 'How we govern ourselves* is 
impossible, on the basis of such a training: the command 
to conformity, and to respect for authority as such, is too 
strong. Of course, having worked for improvement in the 
conditions of working people, in the spirit of service, those 
who are ruled by the idea of service are genuinely dis 
mayed when the workers do not fully respond: when, as it 
is put, they don't play the game, are lacking in team-spirit, 
neglect the national interest. This has been a crisis of con 
science for many middle-class democrats and socialists. Yet 
the fact is that working-class people cannot feel that this is 
their community in anything like the sense in which it is 


felt above them. Nor will education in their responsibilities 
to a community thus conceived convince them. The idea 
of service breaks down because while the upper servants 
have been able to identify themselves with the establish 
ment, the lower servants have not. What 'they decide is 
still the practical experience of life and work. 

The idea of service, ultimately, is no substitute for the 
idea of active mutual responsibility, which is the other ver 
sion of community. Few men can give the best of them 
selves as servants; it is the reduction of man to a function. 
Further, the servant, if he is to be a good servant, can never 
really question the order of things; his sense of authority is 
too strong. Yet the existing order is in fact subject to almost 
overwhelming pressures, The break through, into what to 
gether we want to make of our lives, will need qualities 
which the idea of service not only fails to provide, but, in 
its limitation of our minds, actively harms. 

The idea of service to the community has been offered to 
the working class as an interpretation of solidarity, but it 
has not, in the circumstances, been fully accepted, for it is, 
to them, inferior in feeling. Another alternative to solidarity 
which has had some effect is the idea of individual oppor 
tunity of the ladder. It has been one of the forms of service 
to provide such a ladder, in industry, in education and else 
where. And many working-class leaders, men in fact who 
have used the ladder, have been dazzled by this alternative 
to solidarity. Yet the ladder is a perfect symbol of the bour 
geois idea of society, because, while undoubtedly it offers 
the opportunity to climb, it is a device which can only be 
used individually: you go up the ladder alone. This kind 
of individual climbing is of course the bourgeois model: a 
man should be allowed to better himself. The social con 
science, which produced the idea of service, argued that 
no greater benefit could be conferred on the working peo 
ple than that this ladder should be extended to them. The 
actual process of reform, in so far as it has not been gov 
erned by working-class pressure, has been, in large part, 
the giving of increasing opportunity to climb. Many indeed 
have scrambled up, and gone off to play on the other side; 
many have tried to climb and failed. Judged in each par- 


ticular case, it seems obviously right that a working man, 
or the child of a working-class family, should be enabled to 
fit himself for a different kind of work, corresponding to 
his ability. Because of this, the ladder idea has produced a 
real conflict of values witMn the working class itself. My 
own view is that the ladder version of society is objection 
able in two related respects: first, that it weakens the prin 
ciple of common betterment, which ought to be an absolute 
value; second, that it sweetens the poison of hierarchy, in 
particular by offering the hierarchy of merit as a thing dif 
ferent in kind from the hierarchy of money or of birth. On 
the educational ladder, the boy who has gone from a coun 
cil school to Oxford or Cambridge is of course glad that he 
has gone, and he sees no need to apologize for it, in either 
direction. But he cannot then be expected to agree that 
such an opportunity constitutes a sufficient educational re 
form. A few voices, softened by the climb, may be found 
to say this, which they are clearly expected to say. Yet, if 
he has come from any conscious part of the working class, 
such a boy will take leave to doubt the proffered version. 
The education was worth the effort, but he sees no reason 
why it should be interpreted as a ladder. For the ladder, 
with all its extra-educational implications, is merely an im 
age of a particular version of society; if he rejects the ver 
sion, he will reject the image. Take the ladder image away, 
and interest is returned to what is, for him, its proper ob 
ject: to the making of a common educational provision; to 
the work for equity in material distribution; to the process 
of shaping a tradition, a community of experience, which 
is always a selective organization of past and present, and 
which he has been given particular opportunities to under 
stand. The ladder, which is a substitute for all these things, 
must be understood in all its implications; and it is impor 
tant that the growing number who have had the ladder 
stamped on their brows should interpret it to themselves 
and to their own people, whom, as a class, it could greatly 
harm. For in the end, on any reckoning, the ladder will 
never do; it is the product of a divided society, and will 
fall with it. 

352 OTLTUBE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

The Development of a Common Culture 

In its definition of the common interest as true self- 
interest, in its finding of individual verification primarily in 
the community, the idea of solidarity is potentially the real 
basis of a society. Yet it is subject, in our time, to two im 
portant difficulties. For it has been, basically, a defensive 
attitude, the natural mentality of the long siege. It has in 
part depended, that is to say, on an enemy; the negative 
elements thus produced will have to be converted into posi 
tives in a fully democratic society. This will at best be 
profoundly difficult, for the feelings involved are funda 

The issue can be defined as one in which diversity has to 
be substantiated within an effective community which dis 
poses of majority power. The feeling of solidarity is, al 
though necessary, a primitive feeling. It has depended, 
hitherto, on substantial identity of conditions and experi 
ence. Yet any predictable civilization will depend on a wide 
variety of highly specialized skills, which will involve, over 
definite parts of the culture, a fragmentation of experience. 
The attachment of privilege to certain kinds of skill has 
been traditionally clear, and this will be very difficult to 
unlearn., to the degree tihat is necessary if substantial com 
munity of condition is to be assured. A culture in common, 
in our own day, will not be the simple all-in-all society of 
old dream. It will be a very complex organization, requir 
ing continual adjustment and redrawing. At root, the feeling 
of solidarity is the only conceivable element of stabilization 
in so difficult an organization. But in its issue it will have 
to be continually redefined, and there will be many at 
tempts to enlist old feelings in the service of an emerging 
sectional interest. The emphasis that I wish to place here is 
that this first difficultythe compatibility of increasing spe 
cialization with a genuinely common culture is only solu 
ble in a context of material community and by the full 
democratic process. A skill is only an aspect of a man, and 
yet, at times, it can seem to comprehend his whole being. 
This is one kind of crisis, and it can only be overcome as a 


man becomes conscious that the value lie places on his skill, 
the differentiation he finds in it, can only ultimately be 
confirmed by his constant effort not only to confirm and 
respect the skills of others, but also to confirm and deepen 
the community which is even larger than the skills. The 
mediation of this lies deep in personal feeling, but enough 
is known to indicate that it is possible. Further, there can 
be no effective participation in the whole culture merely 
on the basis of the skill which any particular man may 
acquire. The participation depends on common resources, 
and leads a man towards others. To any individual, how 
ever gifted, full participation will be impossible, for the 
culture will be too complex. Yet effective participation is 
certainly possible. It will, at any time, be selective from the 
whole culture, and there will be difference and unevenness 
in selection, as there will be in contribution. Such selection, 
such unevenness, can be made compatible with an effective 
community of culture, but only by genuine mutual respon 
sibility and adjustment. This is the conversion of the de 
fensive element of solidarity into the wider and more posi 
tive practice of neighbourhood. It is, in practice, for any 
man, a long conversion of the habitual elements of denial; 
a slow and deep personal acceptance of extending commu 
nity. The institutions of cynicism, of denial and of division 
will perhaps only be thrown down when they are recog 
nized for what they are: the deposits of practical failures 
to live. Failure the jaunty hardness of the 'outsider' will 
lose its present glamour, as the common experience moves 
in a different direction. Nobody will be proud any longer 
to be separate, to deny, or to ratify a personal failure in 

The second difficulty, in the development of the idea of 
solidarity., is related to the first: in that it is again a question 
of achieving diversity without creating separation. Solidar 
ity, as a feeling, is obviously subject to rigidities, which can 
be dangerous in a period of change. The command to com 
mon action is right, but there is always the danger that the 
common understanding will be inadequate, and that its en 
forcement will prevent or delay right action. No commu 
nity, no culture, can ever be fully conscious of itself, ever 

354 ClflLTUBE AND SOCIETY l/8o-195O 

fully know itself. The growth of consciousness is usually 
uneven, individual and tentative in nature. An emphasis of 
solidarity which, by intention or by accident, stifles or 
weakens such growth may, evidently, bring a deep common 
harm. It is necessary to make room for, not only variation, 
but even dissidence, within the common loyalty. Yet it is 
difficult to feel that, even in the English working-class 
movement, with its long democratic tradition, this need has 
been clearly and practically recognized. 

A culture, while it is being lived, is always in part un 
known, in part unrealized. The making of a community is 
always an exploration, for consciousness cannot precede 
creation, and there is no formula for unknown experience. 
A good community, a living culture, will, because of this, 
not only make room for but actively encourage all and 
any who can contribute to the advance in consciousness 
which is the common need. Wherever we have started from, 
we need to listen to others who started from a different 
position. We need to consider every attachment, every 
value, with our whole attention; for we do not know the 
future, we can never be certain of what may enrich it; we 
can only, now, listen to and consider whatever may be of 
fered and take up what we can. 

The practical liberty of thought and expression is less a 
natural right than a common necessity. The growth of un 
derstanding is so difficult that none of us can arrogate to 
himself, or to an institution or a class, the right to deter 
mine its channels of advance. Any educational system will 
relect the content of a society; any emphasis in exploration 
will follow from an emphasis of common need. Yet no sys 
tem, and no emphasis, can be adequate, if they fail to allow 
for real flexibility, real alternative courses. To deny these 
practical liberties is to burn the common seed. To tolerate 
only this or only that, according to some given formula, is 
to submit to the phantasy of having occupied the future 
and fenced it into fruitful or unfruitful ground. Thus, in the 
working-class movement, while the clenched fist is a nec 
essary symbol, the clenching ought never to be such that 
the hand cannot open, and the fingers extend, to discover 
and give a shape to the newly forming reality. 


We have to plan what can be planned, according to our 

common decision. But the emphasis of the idea of culture 
is right when it reminds us that a culture, essentially, is 
unplannable. We have to ensure the means of life, and the 
means of community. But what will then, by these means, 
be lived, we cannot know or say. The idea of culture rests 
on a metaphor: the tending of natural growth. And indeed 
it is on growth, as metaphor and as fact, that the ultimate 
emphasis must be placed. Here, finally, is the area where 
we have most need to reinterpret. 

To rid oneself of the illusion of the objective existence of 
'the masses', and to move towards a more actual and more 
active conception of human beings and relationships, is in 
fact to realize a new freedom. Where this can be experi 
enced, the whole substance of one's tMnking is transformed. 
There is a further shift in experience, cognate with this, 
when we think again about human growth, and its human 
tending, in a spirit other than that of the long dominative 
mode. The forces which have changed and are still chang 
ing our world are indeed industry and democracy. Under 
standing of this change, this long revolution, lies at a level 
of meaning which it is not easy to reach. We can in retro 
spect see the dominative mood as one of the mainsprings of 
industry: the theory and practice of man's mastering and 
controlling his natural environment. We are still rephrasing 
this, from experience, as we learn the folly of exploiting any 
part of this environment in isolation. We are learning, 
slowly, to attend to our environment as a whole, and to 
draw our values from that whole, and not from its frag 
mented parts, where a quick success can bring long waste. 
In relation to this kind of learning, we come to realize, 
again slowly, that where the dominative mood extends to 
man himself, where human beings also are isolated and 
exploited, with whatever temporary success, the issue in the 
long run is a cancelling in spirit of the full opportunities 
offered by the material gains. A knot is tied, that has come 
near to strangling our whole common life, in this century. 
We live in almost overwhelming danger, at a peak of our 
apparent control. We react to the danger by attempting to 
take control, yet still we have to unlearn, as the price of 


survival, the inherent dominative mode. The struggle for 
democracy is the pattern of this revaluation, yet much that 
passes as democratic is allied, in spirit, with the practice of 
its open enemies. It is as if, in fear or vision, we are now all 
determined to lay our hands on life and force it into our 
own image, and it is then no good to dispute on the merits 
of rival images. This is a real barrier in the mind, which at 
times it seems almost impossible to break down: a refusal 
to accept the creative capacities of life; a determination to 
limit and restrict the channels of growth; a habit of think 
ing, indeed, that the future has now to be determined by 
some ordinance in our own minds. We project our old im 
ages into the future, and take hold of ourselves and others 
to force energy towards that substantiation. We do this as 
conservatives, trying to prolong old forms; we do this as 
socialists, trying to prescribe the new man. A large part of 
contemporary resistance to certain kinds of change, which 
are obviously useful in themselves, amounts to an inarticu 
late distrust of this effort at domination. There is the hostil 
ity to change of those who wish to cling to privilege. There 
is also the hostility to one's life being determined, in a dom 
inative mood masked by whatever idealism or benevolence. 
This latter hostility is valuable, and needs to be distin 
guished from the former with which it is often crudely 
compounded. It is the chafing of any felt life against the 
hands which seek to determine its course, and this, which 
was always the democratic impulse, remains essential 
within the new definitions of society. There are still major 
material barriers to democracy, but there is also this barrier 
in our minds, behind which, with an assumption of virtue, 
we seek to lay hands on others, and, from our own con 
structions, determine their course. Against this the idea of 
culture is necessary, as an idea of the tending of natural 
growth. To know, even in part, any group of living proc 
esses, is to see and wonder at their extraordinary variety 
and complexity. To know, even in part, the life of man, is 
to see and wonder at its extraordinary multiplicity, its great 
fertility of value. We have to live by our own attachments, 
but we can only live fully, in common, if we grant the at 
tachments of others, and make it our common business to 


keep the channels of growth clear. Never yet, in the great 
pattern o inheritance and response, have two wholly iden 
tical individuals been formed. This, rather than any par 
ticular image of virtue, is our actual human scale. The idea 
of a common culture brings together, in a particular form 
of social relationship, at once the idea of natural growth 
and that of its tending. The former alone is a type of ro 
mantic individualism; the latter alone a type of authoritar 
ian training. Yet each, within a whole view, marks a nec 
essary emphasis. The struggle for democracy is a struggle 
for the recognition of equality of being, or it is nothing. Yet 
only in the acknowledgement of human individuality and 
variation can the reality of common government be com 
prised. We stress natural growth to indicate the whole po 
tential energy, rather than the selected energies which the 
dominative mode finds it convenient to enlist. At the same 
time, however, we stress the social reality, the tending. Any 
culture, in its whole process, is a selection, an emphasis, a 
particular tending. The distinction of a culture in common 
is that the selection is freely and commonly made and re 
made. The tending is a common process, based on common 
decision, which then, within itself, comprehends the actual 
variations of life and growth. The natural growth and the 
tending are parts of a mutual process, guaranteed by the 
fundamental principle of equality of being. 

The evident problems of our civilization are too close and 
too serious for anyone to suppose that an emphasis is a 
solution. In every problem we need hard, detailed inquiry 
and negotiation. Yet we are coming increasingly to realize 
that our vocabulary, the language we use to enquire into 
and negotiate our actions, is no secondary factor, but a 
practical and radical element in itself. To take a meaning 
from experience, and to try to make it active, is in fact our 
process of growth. Some of these meanings we receive and 
re-create. Others we must make for ourselves, and try to 
communicate. The human crisis is always a crisis of under 
standing: what we genuinely understand we can do. I have 
written this book because I believe the tradition it records 
is a major contribution to our common understanding, and 
a major incentive to its necessary extensions. There are 

358 CUI/TUHE AND SOCIETY 1780-1950 

ideas, and ways of thinking, with the seeds of life in them, 
and there are others, perhaps deep in our minds, with the 
seeds of a general death. Our measure of success in recog 
nizing these kinds, and in naming them making possible 
their common recognition, may be literally the measure of 
our future. 


Page Note No. 

xii i. Words Ancient and Modern; E. Weekley; 1926; p. 34* 




4 i. Letter, 21 November 1791, to Fitzwilliam; cit. Ed 

mund Burke, A Life; Philip Magnus; London, 1939; 
Appendix 5; p. 348. 

5 2,. Essays in Criticism; M. Arnold (1918 edn.); p. 18. 

5 3. Lord Charlemont, 19 August 1797; cit. Magnus, op. 

cit., p. 296, 

6 4. Reflections on the Revolution in France; Edmund 

Burke (World's Classics edn.), 1950; pp. 184-185. 

7 5. Ibid., pp. 186-187. 

8 6. Letter to a Noble Lord; Works, Vol. V, p. 186. 
8 7. Reflections, p. 12. 

8 8. Ibid., p. 138. 

9 9. Ibid., p. 65. 
9 10. Ibid., p. 95. 

10 11. Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs; Works, Voi 
III, p. 82. 

10 12. Reflections; pp. 105-106. 

11 13. Ibid., p. 107. 

11 14. Thoughts on French Affairs; ibid., p. 375. 

12 15. Reform of Representation in the House of Commons; 

Works, Vol. VI, p. 147. 

13 16. Reflections; p. 168. 

13 17. Ibid., p. 156. 

14 18. The Bloody Buoy; 1796; Vol. Ill, Porcupine's Works 

14 19. Porcupine's Works, Vol. XII, p. i. 

14 20. Political Register, 28 February 1807. 

15 21. Ibid., 15 March 1806. 
15 22. Ibid., 6 December 1806. 

15 23. Ibid., 12 July 1817. 

16 24. Ibid., 21 November 1807. 
16 25. Ibid., 14 April 1821. 


Page Nate No. 
16 26. Ibid., 10 July 1824. 

16 27. Ibid., 8 March 1834. 

17 28. Ibid., 16 July 1808. 

17 29. Ibid., 13 November 1830. 

18 30. Ibid., 2 May 1812. 
18 31. Ibid., 25 July 1812. 

18 32. Ibid., 19 December 1818. 

18 33. Ibid., 19 December 1818. 

19 34. Ibid., 27 August 1825. 

19 35- Lectures on the French and Belgian Revolutions, I, 

p. i. 

19 36. Political Register, 7 December 1833. 
2,1 37. Letter to T. J. Street, 22 March 1817; Nonesuch 

Coleridge; pp. 668-669. 
22 38. Political Register, 8 June 1816. 


22 i. Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and 

Prospects of Society; Robert Southey; 2 vok., 1829; 
VI, p. 132. 

23 2. Ibid., p. 132. 

23 3. Ibid., pp. 132-133. 

24 4. The Vision of Judgment, Stanza XCVI; Poetical Works 

of Lord Byron ( 1945 ) , p. 168. 

24 5. Git. William Morris, Mediaevalist and Revolutionary; 
M. Grennan; King's Grown Press, New York, 1945; p. 

24 6. Letters of Robert Southey; ed. Fitzgerald; p. 273. 

25 7. Colloquies, VII, pp. 193-194. 
25 8. Ibid., p. 197. 

25 9- Ibid., VII, p. 170. 

26 10. Ibid., p. 174. 

26 11. Ibid., Vol. 2, Coll. XIII, p. 246. 

26 12. Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 262. 

27 13. Ibid., Vol. 2, Coll. XV, pp. 424-425, et supra. 
27 14. Ibid., Coll. IV, p. 79. 

27 15- Ibid., Vol. 2, Coll. XV, p. 418. 

27 16. Ibid., p. 420. 

28 17. Ibid., VIII, p. 206. 

29 18. Observations on the Effect of the Manufacturing Sys 

tem, with hints for the improvement of those parts of 
it which are most injurious to health and morals, dedi 
cated most respectfully to the British Legislature; 
London, 1815; p. 5. 

29 19. Ibid., pp. 10-11. 

30 20. A New View of Society; London, 1813; Essay First on 

the Formation of Character; repr. A New View of So- 


Page Note No. 

defy and Other Writings, by Robert Owen; ed. Cole; 
Everyman, 1927; p. 16. 

30 21. Address prefixed to Third Essay, A New View of So- 

ciety; eel Cole; pp. 8-9. 

31 22. The Life of Robert: Owen, by Himself; repr. London, 

1920; pp. 186-189, passim. 

31 23. Ibid., pp. 122-123. 

32 24. Ibid., p. 105. 

32 25. A New View of Society; pp. 178-179. 


37 i. Wordsworth's Poetical Works; ed. Hutchinson; Ox 
ford, 1908; p. 953- 

37 2. Ibid., p. 952. 

38 3. Draft of The Wealth of Nations, in Adam Smith as 

Student and Professor; W. R. Scott; p. 344. 
38 4. Ibid., p. 345* 

38 5. The Autobiography of Sir Egerton Brydges; 1834; Vol. 

II, pp. 202-203. 

39 6. Memoirs, Journal and Correspondence of Thomas 

Moore; Vol. VII, p. 46. 

40 7. Conjectures on Original Composition; Edward Young; 

1759; p. 12. 

40 8. Ibid., p, 19- 

41 9. William Make; Nonesuch edn. (Keynes); p. 664. 

42 10. Ibid., p. 624. 

42 11. Ibid., p. 637. 

43 12. Poetical Works, p. 260. 

44 13. Ibid., p. 938. 

44 14. Ibid., pp. 951-952. 

45 15. Ibid., pp. 93S-939- 

45 16. Ibid., p. 938. 

46 17. A Defence of Foetry; P. B. Shelley; repr. English 

Prose of the Romantic Period ( Macintyre and Ewing); 
p. 270- 

47 18. Ibid., p. 271. 

48 19, Letters of John Keats; ed. Forrnan; Letter 90, p. 223, 

49 20. Coleridge's Essays and Lectures on Shakespeare; Ev 

eryman, p. 46. 
49 21. Op. cit, p. 130. 
49 22. Ibid., pp. 67-68. 

49 23. Ibid., p. 72. 

50 24. Ibid., p. 67. 

50 25. Poetical Works, p. 941. 

50 26. Ibid., p. 939. 

51 27. Ibid., p. 939. 

52 28. Op. cit, p. 273* 


Page Note No. 
52 29. Ibid., p. 274. 
52 30. Ibid., p. 275. 


54 i. Coleridge; repr. Mill on Bentham and Coleridge; in- 

trod. F. R. Leavis; London, 1950; p. 105. 

55 2. Ibid., p. 105. 

55 3. Ibid., p. 105. 

56 4. Ibid., p. 106. 

57 5. Ibid., pp. 106-107. 

58 6. Ibid., p. 107. 
58 7. Ibid., p. 108. 

58 8. Ibid., p. 99- 

59 9. Ibid., p. 84. 
59 10. Ibid., p. 63. 

59 11. Cit. John Stuart Mill; K. Britton; London, 1953; p. 13. 

60 12. Letters of John Stuart Mitt; ed. Elliot ( 1910); Vol. I, 

p. 88. 

61 13. Bentham; repr. Mill on Bentham and Coleridge; p. 84. 

61 14. Ibid., p. 148. 

62 15. Ibid., p. 70. 
62 16. Ibid., p. 73- 

62 17. On the Constitution of Church and State ( 1837 edn.), 

p. 67. 

63 18. Table Talk, recorded by T. AUsop; repr. Nonesuch 

Coleridge; pp. 476-477. 

64 19. Coleridge; repr. Mitt on Bentham and Coleridge; pp. 


65 20. Ibid., pp. 131-133. 

66 21. Ibid., p. 140. 

67 22. On the Constitution of Church and State, V. 
67 23. Ibid., V. 

67 24. Bentham; repr. Mitt on Bentham and Coleridge; p. 66. 
69 25. Church and State, V. 

69 26. Ibid., V. 

70 27. Ibid., V. 
70 28. Ibid., VI. 
7 29. Ibid., VI. 

70 30. Coleridge; repr. Mill on Bentham and Coleridge; p. 


71 31. Autobiography; J. S. Mill; repr. World's Classics; p. 

71 32. Ibid., p. 113. 

74 33. Letter to Wordsworth, 30 May 1815; repr. Nonesuch 

Coleridge; p. 661. 

75 34. The Friend, Section 2, Essay 11. 
75 35- Letter to Poole, 23 March 1801. 


Page Note No. 
75 36. Notebooks (1801); repr. Nonesuch Coleridge; p. 158. 

75 37- The Friend ( 1818 ), Section 2, Essay 11. 

76 38. Notebooks ( 1801); repr. Nonesuch Coleridge; p. 159. 


78 i. Works of Thomas Carlyle; Vol. II, p. 233. 

78 2. Ibid., p. 233. 

78 3, Ibid., pp. 233-234. 

79 4- Ibid., pp. 234, 235, 236. 
79 5- Ibid., p. 238. 

79 6. Ibid., pp. 239-240. 

80 7. Ibid., p. 245. 
80 8. Ibid., p. 247. 

80 9. Ibid., pp. 248-249. 

80 10. Ibid., p. 249. 

80 11. Ibid., p. 249. 

8 1 12. Ibid., pp. 244-245. 

82 13. Ibid., pp. 250-252. 

83 14. Works, Vol. VI (1869); p. 154- 

83 15. Reflections on the French Revolution, p. 12. 

85 16. Works, Vol. VI, pp. 109-110. 

85 17. Ibid., p. 111. 

85 18. Ibid., p. 152. 

86 19. Ibid., p. 153- 
86 20. Ibid., p. 137. 

86 21. Ibid., p. 145. 

87 22. Ibid., p. 144. 

88 23. Ibid., pp. 174-175. 

88 24. Ibid., p. 183. 

89 25. Ibid., p. 178. 

89 26. Ibid., p. 175- 

90 27. Past and Present; Works, Vol. VII, p. 231. 
90 28. Shooting Niagara, and After; 1867, p. 4. 
90 29, Ibid., p. 10. 

90 30. Works, Vol. VI, p. 154. 

91 31. On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History; 

Works, Vol. VII, p. 147. 

91 32. Ibid,, p. 148. 

92 33. Ibid., p. 154. 

92 34. Ibid., p. 156. 

93 35- Ibid., p. 143. 


95, 96 i. Cit. Elizabeth Gaskell; her life and work; A. B. Hop 
kins; 1952; p. 77. 


and South; E. Gaskeil (1889 edn.); Ch. H. p. 

100 3. Tte Great Tradition; F. R. Leavis; London, 1948; p. 

101 4. OL Life of John Stuart Milk M. St. J. Packe; 1954; 

102 5. &ard 1 T*mes; C. Dickens; Book the Tlaid-Garmnng; 

Ch. viii 

103 6. Ibid., Ch. vi 

105 7. %M, or ffce Two Nfl*iow; B. Disraeli; repr. Pengum 

edn., 1954; p- 40- 

106 8. Ibid., pp. 71-72- 

106 9. Ibid., p. 267. 

107 10. Ibid., pp. 216-217. 

107 11. Ibid., p. 280, A iit in 

109 12. Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet, an Autobiography; C. 

Kingsley (1892 edn.); Ch. xxxvii; pp. 285-287. 
no 13. Ibid., Preface to the Undergraduates of Cambridge, p. 

111 14. Letter to I. Sibree, February 1848, in George Eliot's 

Life, as related in her letters and journals; ed. Cross; 
'New Edition' (n.d.); pp. 98-99- t x 

112 15. Felix Holt the Radical; G. Eliot ( 1913 edn.), vois -5 

Vol. 2, p. 41 (Ch. xxvii). 

114 16. Ibid., Vol. 2, p. 89 (Ch. xxx ). 

115 17. Ibid., Vol. i, pp. 266-267 (Ch. xvi). 

116 18. Address to Workingmen, by Felix Holt; George Eliot; 

Blackwood's, 1868; repr. Essays and Leaves from a 
Notebook, Blackwood, 1884; pp. 341-342- 
116 19. Ibid., pp. 333 and 34& 


119 i. On the Scope and Nature of University Education; 

J. H. Newman; 1852; pp. 201-202. 

120 2. Ibid., p. 255. 

120 3. Ibid., pp. 197-198. _ 

121 4. On the Constitution of Church and State; S. T. Cole 

ridge; V. 
121 5. Chartism; T, Carlyle. 

121 6. Alton Locke; C, Kingsley (1892 edn.); pp. xxx-xxxi. 

122 7. Git Continuation Schools in England and EUewhere; 

Sadler; London, 1908; pp. 38-39. 

122 8. Ibid. 

123 9. Englishman's Register. See Life and Correspondence, 

Ch. vi. 

123 10. 13 Letters on our Social Condition; Sheffield Courant; 
1832; Letter II, pp. 4-5- 


Note No. 

123 ii. Letter XII, Hertford Reformer; Misc. Works, p. 481. 

124 12. Letter VI, Hertford Reformer; Misc. Works, pp. 453 

124 13. Letter XVI, Hertford Reformer; Misc. Works, p. 500. 

124 14. Culture and Anarchy; M. Arnold (Murray); p. viiL 

125 15. Ibid., p. xi. 
125 16. Ibid., p. 10 

125 17. Ibid., pp. 12-13. 

126 18. Ibid., p. 13. 

127 19. Friendship's Garland; M. Arnold (1903 edn.); p. 141. 

127 20. Ibid., p. 141. 

128 21. Culture and Anarchy, p. viii, and p. 8. 

128 22. Ibid., p. 9. 

129 23. Ibid., p. 150. 

130 24. Ibid., p. 27. 

130 25. Reflections on the French Revolution, p. 107. 

131 26. Culture and Anarchy, p. 43. 

131 27. Ibid., p. 70. 

132 28. Ibid., p. 164. 

133 29- Ibid., p. 87. 
*33 3 Ibid., p. 88. 

134 31. Ibid., p. 37. 
134 32. Ibid., p. 42. 
134 33. Ibid., p. 160. 

134 34. Ibid., pp. 157-158. My italics. 

136 35. Ibid., p. 30. 

137 36. The Scope and Nature of University Education, p. 


137 37. Culture and Religion, in some of their relations; J. C. 
Shairp; 1870; p. 5. 

137 38. The Choice of Books; Harrison, p. 103. 

138 39. Democracy, in Mixed Essays (1903 edn.); p. 47. 

139 40. Culture and Anarchy, p. 28. 


140 i. The Gothic Revival; Kenneth Clark; London (2nd 

[revised] edn.); p. 188. 
142 2. Contrasts; A. W. Pugin; London, 1841 ( 2nd edn. ) ; pp. 


144 3. Life of George Eliot; J. W. Cross; London, n.d.; p. 


145 4. Ruskin; D. Larg; London, 1932; p. 95. 

145 5. Modern Painters, II, Part III, Sec. I, Ch. 3, para. 16. 

146 6. Lectures on Art; Library edn., Vol. XX, p. 39. 

147 7. In the manuscript printed as an appendix to Modern 

Painters (Library edn.), Vol. 2, pp. 388-389. 

148 8. Stones of Venice, Vol. I, Appendix 15. 


Page Note No. 

14Q 9- Ptaeterita, ii, p. 205. 

150 10. Modem Painters, II, Part III, Sec. I, Ch. 3, para. 16. 

151 11. John Ruskin, Social Reformer; J. A. Hobson; London, 

152 12. Sfcme^if Venice, Vol. 2, Ch. VI, Tfce Nfltore of Gothte 

(1899 edM.); p. 165. 

153 13- It> id -> PP- l6 3 a* 1 * a 5- 7 7 , , x 

153 14- Unto te La&s Essay IV, Ad Valorem (1900 edn.}; 

pp. 118-119. 

154 15- Munera Pulveris (1899 edn.), p. 1. 

154 16. Unto Ms Last; Essay III, @fd Judicatis Terram ( 1900 
edn.); p. 102. 

154 17. Unto this Last, p. 123. 

155 18. The Two Paths (1887 edn.), pp. 129-131- 

156 19. The Crown of Wild Olive (1886 edn.), p. 73- 
156 20. Ibid., p. 101. 

158 551. Time and Tide, paras. 138, 139- 

158 2,2,. Sesame and Lilies, para. 52. 

159 23. The Two Paths (1887 edn.), p. 125. 

160 24a, b, c. How I Became a Socialist; repr. Nonesuch 

Morris; pp. 657-658. 

161 24d. Ibid. 

162 25. Ibid., p. 659- My italics. 

163 26. Letter to Pall Mall Gazette; in Letters of William 

Morris; ed. Henderson; p. 262. 

163 27. Letter to Daily News; in Letters; pp. 242-243. 

164 28. Art and Socialism; repr. Nonesuch Morris; p. 630. 
164 29. The Aims of Art; repr. Nonesuch Morris; pp. 598-599- 

164 30. Communism; repr. Nonesuch Morris; p. 669. 

165 31. The Beauty of Life; repr. Nonesuch Morris; pp. 542- 


165 32. The Aims of Art; repr. Nonesuch Morris; pp. 592-593- 

166 33. The Art of the People; repr. Nonesuch Morris; p. 527. 
166 34. Art and Socialism; repr. Nonesuch Morris; p. 635. 

166 35- Ibid., p. 636. 

167 36. How we Live and How we might Live; repr. None 

such Morris; p. 581 and pp. 584-585. 

168 37. Communism; repr. Nonesuch Morris; p. 660. 

169 38. Ibid., p. 661. 
169 39- Ibid., p. 660. 

169 40. Ibid., pp. 662-663. 

170 41. The Art of the People; repr. Nonesuch Morris; p. 520. 
170 42. Communism; repr. Nonesuch Morris; p. 663. 

170 43. Ibid., p. 665. 




Page Note No. 

175 i. The New Republic; or, Culture, Faith, and "Philosophy 

in an English Country House; W. H. Mallock; repr. 

London, 1945; p. 147. 
175 2. Ibid., p. 155. 
175 3. Ibid., p. 157. 

175 4. Ibid., pp. 281-282. 

176 5. The Limits of Pure Democracy; London, 1918; p. 351. 
176 6. Ibid., p. 348. 

176 7. Ibid., p. 352. 

176 8. Ibid., p. 392. 

177 9. Ibid,, p. 280. 

178 10. Ibid., p. 288. 


179 i. Appreciations, with an Essay on Style; Waiter Pater; 

London, 1907 (srd edn.); pp. 62-63. 

180 2. The Renaissance; Walter Pater; 1904 edn.; p. 239. 

180 3. Ibid., p. 229. 

18 1 4. Mr Whistler's "Ten O'clock'; London, Chatto & 

Windtis, 1888; passim. 

182 5. Whistler t). Ruskin; Art and Art Critics; (4th edn.: 

n.d.); pp. 14-15- 
182 6. 'Ten O CZodfc', p. 7. 
182 7. Ibid., p. 9. 

182 8. Ibid., p. 29. 

183 9. Wilde v. Whistler, being an acrimonious correspond 

ence between Oscar Wilde and James A. McNeill 

Whistler; London, 1906, privately printed; p. 8. 
183 10, The Soul of Man under Socialism; Oscar Wilde; repr. 

Essays by Oscar Wilde (ed. Pearson); London, 1950; 

p. 232. 

183 11. The Critic as Artist; ibid., p. 157. 
183 12. Ibid., pp. 156-157. 
183 13. The Decay of Lying; ibid., passim. 

183 14. The Critic as Artist; ibid., pp. 152-153. 

184 15. The Soul of Man under Socialism; ibid., p. 245. 
184 16. Ibid., p. 227. 

184 17. Ibid., p. 266. 

184 18. Ibid,, pp. 230-231, 


Page Note No. 

185 19- Ibid., p. 228. 

185 20. The Critic as Artist; ibid., p. 125. 


186 i. New Grub Street; G. Gissing; repr. London, 1927; Ch. 

i; A Man of his Day; pp. 4-5. 

187 2. Ibid., Ch. xxxMi; The Sunny Way; p. 419. 

187 3. Ibid., Ch. xxxiv; A Check; p. 436. 

188 4. The Nether World; G. Gissing ( 1890 new edn.); Ch. 

xi; p. 392. 

189 5- Ibid., pp. 391-392. 

189 6. The Unclassed; G. Gissing (new edn., repr. 1901); 

Ch. xxv; Art and Misery; p. 211. 
191 7. Demos, a story of English Socialism; G. Gissing ( 1897 

new edn.); Ch. xxxi; p. 407. 
191 8. The Conservative Mind; R. Kirk; London, 1954; p. 


191 9. Demos, Ch. xv, p. 202. 

192 10. Ibid., Ch. xxix, p. 381. 

192 11. Ibid., Ch. xxxvi, p. 470. 


193 i. Death of an Old Revolutionary Hero; Bernard Shaw, 

194 2. The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Cap 

italism; Bernard Shaw; London, 1928; p. 219. 
194 3- Ibid., p. 456. 
196 4. Fabian Essays in Socialism ( 1931 edn. ) ; pp. 186-187. 

196 5. Ibid., pp. 31-35, passim. 

197 6. Signs of Change; W. Morris; London, 1888; p. 46. 
197 7. Fabian Essays, p. 37. 

197 8. Review in Commonweal, 25 January 1890. 

197 9. Ibid. 

198 10. Fabian Essays; Introd. to 1920 edn. (1931 edn.); pp. 

xxi-xxix, passim. 
198 11. Ibid.; Preface to 1931 edn.; p. ix. 

198 12. Intelligent Woman's Guide, pp. 452-453* 

199 13. Ibid., p. 164. 
199 14. Ibid., p. 454. 
199 15- Ibid., p. 459- 


201 i. The Servile State; H. Belloc (srd edn. ? 1927); p. 53 

and p. 72. 

201 2. Ibid., p. 53. 
201 3. Ibid., p. 51. 


Page Note No. 

201 4. Ibid., p. 116. 

201 5. Ibid., p. 127. 
2,02, 6. Ibid., p. viii. 

202 7. Guilds and the Social Crisis; A. J. Penty; London, 

1919; p. 46. 

202 8. Ibid., pp. 46-47. 
202 9. Ibid., p. 47. 

202 10. Ibid., p. 57. 

203 n. Old Worlds for New: a study of the post-industrial 

State; A. J. Penty; pp. 28-29. 
203 12. Ibid., p. 33. 
203 13. Ibid., p. 33. 
203 14. Ibid., p. 35. 

203 15. Ibid., p. 176. 

204 16. Essays in Social Theory; G. D. H. Cole; London, 1950; 

p. 90- 

204 17. Ibid., p. 93. 


205 i. Speculations: essays on humanism and the philosophy 

of art; T. E. Hulme; ed. H. Read; London (2nd edn.), 
repr. 1954; p. 116. 

206 2. Ibid., pp. 255-256. 

206 3. Ibid., pp. 32-34. 

207 4. Ibid., p. 117. 

207 5. Ibid., p. 118. 

208 6. Ibid., p. 37. 

209 7. Ibid., p. 254, 

209 8. Ibid., p. 259, note. 

209 9. Ibid., p. 259, note. 

209 10. Ibid., p. 133. 

209 11. Ibid., p. 127. 

209 12. Ibid., p. 120. 

209 13. Ibid., p. 77 et al. 

209 14. Ibid., p. 97. 

210 15. Ibid., p. 104. 



214 i. Climbing down Pisgah; Selected Essays (Penguin), p. 

214 2. Ibid., p. 53. 


Page Note No. . 

215 3. Nottingham and the Mining Country; Sekcted Essays, 

p. 120. 

215 4. Democracy; Selected Essays, p. 94. 

216 5. Nottingham and the Mining Country, p. 119. 

216 6. Lady Chatterleys Lover; Works, repr. 1950; PP- *73- 


217 7. Nottingham and the Mining Country, p. 119. 
219 8. Ibid., pp. 121-122. 

222 9. Democracy; Selected Essays, p. 88. 

222 10. Ibid., p. 89. 

223 11. Ibid., pp. 91-92. 

223 12. Ibid., p. 89. 

224 13. Ibid., p. 93- 

224 14. Ibid., p. 94. 

225 15. Ibid., p. 95- 

225 16. Ibid., p. 76. 

226 17. Ibid., pp. 9^-93- 

227 18. Studies in Classic American Literature; p. 12. 
227 19. Ibid. 

227 20. Democracy; Selected Essays, p. 95* 

229 21. Letters; p. 286. 

229 22. Ibid., p. 196. 

229 23. John Galsworthy; Selected Essays, p. 227. 

230 24. Sex versus Loveliness; Selected Essays, p. 18. 
230 25. The State of Funk; Selected Essays, pp. 100-101. 


232 i. The Acquisitive Society; R. H. Tawney; London, 
1921; p. 7. 

232 2. Ibid., pp. 12-14. 

233 3. Ibid., pp. 19-20. 

233 4. Ibid., p. 21. 

234 5- Ibid., p. 19- 

234 6. Ibid., pp. 47-48. 

235 7- Ibid., pp. 48-49- 

235 8. Ibid., p. 42. 

236 9. Equality; R. H. Tawney; London (revised edn.), 

1931; pp. 30-31. 

237 10. Ibid., pp. 46-50, passim. 
237 11. Ibid., p. 50. 

237 12. Ibid., p. 53. 

238 13. Ibid., p. 103. 

239 14. Ibid., p. 103. 

239 15. Ibid., p. 103. 

240 16. Ibid., p. 112. 

240 17. Ibid., p. 113. 

241 18. Ibid., p. 116. 


"Page Note No. 

242, 19. Ibid., pp. 116-117, and p. 106. 


243 i. Mitt on Bentham and Coleridge; introd. F. R. Leavis; 

London, 1950; p. 140. 

243 2. Ibid., p. 167. 

243 3. The Idea of a Christian Society; T. S. Eliot; London, 

1939; p- 8. 

244 4- Ibid., p. 9. 
244 5- Ibid., p. 64. 

244 6. Ibid., p. 34, 

245 7. Ibid., p. 34. 
245 8. Ibid., p. 33- 

245 9- Ibid., p. 33 and pp. 61-62. 

246 10. Ibid., pp. 30-31- 
246 11. Ibid., p. 21. 

246 12. Ibid., p. 39. 

247 13- Ibid., pp. 39-40. 

248 14. Notes towards the Definition of Culture; T. S. Eliot; 

London, 1948; p. 25. 

248 15. Ibid., p. 16. 

248 16. Ibid., p. 16. 

250 17. Ibid., p. 31. 

251 18. Ibid., p. 19. 
251 19. Ibid., p. 21. 
251 20. Ibid., p. 22. 

251 21. Ibid., p. 24. 

252 22. Ibid., p. 35. 
257 23. Ibid., p. 37- 


262 i. Principles of Literary Criticism; I. A. Richards; Lon 

don, 1924; pp. 56-57' 
262 2. Principles, p. 36. 

262 3. Science and Poetry; I. A. Richards; London, 1926; pp. 

47 and 53-54- 

263 4. Principles, p. 46. 
263 5* Ibid., p. 48. 

263 6. Ibid., p. 51. 

264 7- Ibid., p. 55- 

264 8. Science and Poetry, pp. 82-83. 

264 9. Principles, p. 196. 

265 10. Ibid., p. 203. 



Page Note No. 

265 ii. Ibid, p. 236. 

266 12. Science and Poetry, p. 20. 

266 13. Principles, pp. 237-238. 

267 14. Art and Society; Herbert Read; pp. 94-95- 


271 i. Mass Civilization and Minority Culture; Cambridge, 

1930; pp. 3-5- 

272 2. Ibid., p. 26. 

276 3. Cutout and EfurfiWMnenfc tte Training of Critical 

Awareness; F. R. Leavis and Denys Thompson; Lon 
don, 1933; P- 87- 

277 4- Ibid., p. 91. 
277 5. Ibid., pp. 68-69. 
277 6. Ibid., pp. 91-92. 
279 7- Ibid., pp. 96~97- 


283 i. 'Newcastle Chronicle, 12 April 1887; cat. William Mor 

ris, Romantic to Revolutionary; E. P. Thompson; Lon 
don, 1955; p. 522. 

284 2. Critique of Political Economy; Karl Marx; Preface; 

Eng. trans., Stone; pp. nff. 

285 3. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte; Karl 

Marx; Eng. trans., de Leon; 1898; p, 24. 

286 4. Engels, letter to J, Bloch, 21 September 1890; Selected 

Correspondence, p. 475. 

286 5. English translation as In Defence of Materialism; 

G. V. Piekhanov; trans., A. Rotnstein; London, 1947; 
V, p. 207. 

287 6. Ibid., pp. 223 and 237. 

287 7. Ibid., p. 237. 

288 8. The Mind in Chains; ed. C. Day Lewis; London, 

1937; p. 15. 

288 9. Ibid., p. 24. 

289 10. Ibid., pp. 21-22. 

291 11. Crisis and Criticism; Alick West; London, 1937, pp. 


291 12. Op. cit., pp. 770 and 763. 

292 13. The Novel and the People; Ralph Fox; London, 1937; 

p. 22. 

294 14. Op. cit., p. 114. 

295 15- Ibid., p. 133. 
295 16. Ibid., p. 138. 

295 17. Ibid., pp. 138-139. 


Page Note No. 

296 18. Illusion and Reality; C. Caudwell (new edn.); 2-94&I 
p. 257. 

296 19- Ibid., p. 214, 

296 so. Ibid., Biographical Note, by G. T.; p. 5- 
296 21. Modern Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 6, No. 4; Autumn 
1951; p. 346. 

296 22. Ibid., p, 346. 

297 23. Studies in a Dying Culture; C. Caudwell; London; 

1938; repr. 1948; pp. 53-54- 

297 24. Further Studies in a Dying Culture; C. Caudwell; 

London, 1949; p. 109. 

298 25. Illusion and Reality, p. 265. 

298 26. Cit. M. Slater; Modern Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 6, 
No. 3; Summer 1951; p. 265. 

300 27. Illusion and Reality, p. 55. 

301 28. See e.g. Comforth; Modern Quarterly, New Series, 

Vol. 6, No. 4; Autumn 1951; p. 357- 

302 29. Cit. Blunt; Art under Capitalism and Socialism, in 

Mind in Chains; p. 122 ('Remarks to Clara Zetkia'). 

303 30. Collected Works; Lenin; Vol. IV, Book 2, p. 114- 


304 i. Critical Essays; George Orwell; London, 1946; p. 45. 
304 2. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell; London, 1951; 

306 3. Ibid., p. 208. 

306 4. Ibid., p. 210. 

306 5. The Road to Wigan "Pier; Orwell; London, 1937; p. 

306 6. Rudyard Kipling, in Critical Essays; London, 1946; p. 

306 7. WeUs, Hitler and the World State, in Critical Essays; 

p. 84. 
306 8. Rudyard Kipling, Critical Essays, p. 103. 

306 9. Politics and Letters; Summer 1940; p. 39. 

307 10. The Road to Wigan Pier, p. 206. 
307 11. Ibid., p. 248. 

307 12. Ibid., p. 205. 

307 13. Coming up for Air; London; 2nd edn,, 1948, p. 148. 

307 14. Keep the AJspidistra Flying; London, 1936; p. 64. 

307 15. The Road to Wigan Pier, p. 196. 

308 16. Politics and the English Language, in Shooting an 

Elephant, p. 93. 

313 17. Nineteen Eighty-Four, pp. 73 and 227. 
313 18. George Orwell, by J. Walsh; Marxist; Quarterly, Vol. 

3, No. i, January 1956; pp. 

(Main sections in bold type) 


Acquisitive Society, The, 232 


Address to Working Men, by 
Felix Holt, 116 

Aims of Art, The, 168 

Alton Locke, 94, 108-10, 112, 

Animal Farm, 312 

Apology for the Present Re 
vival of Christian Architec 
ture, 141 

Aristotle, 42, 140 

Amold, Matthew, 4-5, 7, 79, 
92, 116, 120-39, 150, 157, 
174-75, i79-8o, 183-85, 
195, 197, 207, 231-32, 235, 
239, 251, 253, 256, 261, 
271-72, 274, 290 

Arnold, Thomas, 123-24 

Art of Donald McGill, The, 

Autobiography (Gorki), 190 

Autobiography (MiH), 71-72 

Bell, Clive, 240, 261 

Belloc, Hilaire, 200-2 

Bentham, Jeremy, 53-54, 58- 
66, 76, 195, 263, 269 

Bemal, J. D., 296 

Between the Lines, 270 

Blake, William, 33-52, 162 

Bourne, George, 276 

British Banner, The, 126 

Brydges, Egerton, 38 

Btrayan, John, 280 

Burke, Edmund, 3-^2, 24, 34, 
68, 83, 87, 120, 125-27, 
129-30, 134, 137-39, 150, 

204, 206, 223, 232, 253, 
260, 281-82, 347 

Butler, Samuel, 173 
Byron, George Lord, 24, 34, 

Carlyle, Thomas, 21, 40, 71, 
76, 77-93, 103, 108, 113, 
116, 121, 125, 141, 143, 
146, 150-51, 158, 160, 178, 
195, 197, 199, 213-14, aiS. 

221, 226, 246, 249, 251, 

253, 256 

Catechism of the New View of 
Society, A, 32 

Caudwefl, C., 294-99 
Change in the Village, 276 
Chartism, 84-89 
Chateaubriand, Frangois, 

comte de, 40 

Chesterton, G. 1C, 200, 307 
Cinders, 208 
Clark, Kenneth, 140 
Cobbett, William, 3-22, 23, 

56, 61, 63, 85, 88, 103, 106, 

113, 162, 168, 223, 276, 278 
Cole, G. D. BL, 200, 203-4 
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 21, 

22, 24, 33-52, 53-7, 77, 

92, 105, 120, 123-25, 137- 
38, 141, ISO, 158, 160, 173, 

223, 232, 239, 43, 249-51, 
253, 256, 271-72, 274, 281, 

Colloquies, 2228, 231 
Coming up for Air, 309 
Common Pursuit, The, 270 
Conjectures on Original Com 
position, 4041 




Constitution of Church 

State, On the, 62-71 
Contrasts, 3, 141-43 
ComMl, The, 157 
Crabbe, George, 277-78 
Cf&fc and Criticism, 290-91 
Critique of Political Economy, 

Culture and Anarchy, 116, 

120, 124-39, 157 
Culture and Environment, 


Darwin, Charles, 294 
De Laguna, 294 
Defence of Poetry, 45, 52 
Demos, 186, 188, 191 
Deserted Village, The, 277 
Development of the Monist 

Theory of History, The, 

Dickens, Charles, 20, 85, 99- 

104, 161, 280, 304 
Disraeli, Benjamin, 88, 104-7, 

Down and Out in Paris and 

London, 309 
Drama and Society in the Age 

of Jonson, 270 
Dream of John Ball, 167 

Ecclesiologist, The, 146 
Edinburgh Review, 77 
Education and the University, 

270, 273 
Eighteenth Srumaire of Louis 

Napoleon, The, 285 
Eliot, George, 110-18, 144, 


Eliot, T. S. s 127, 207, 210, 

^43-60, 261, 279-80 
Engels, Friedricli, 283-86, 292 
Englishman's Register, 123 

Equality (Arnold), 139 
Equality ( Tawney ) , 23 1-32, 


Examination of Sir William 
Hamilton's Philosophy, An, 

Fabian Essays, 195-96 
Factory as it might be, A, 168 
Felix Holt, 94, 110-18, 192 
Fiction and the Reading Pub 
lic, 270 

Fox, Ralph, 292 
Fragments (Novalis), 77 
Freud, Sigmund, 267 
Friendship's Garland, 126-27 

Galsworthy, John, 229 
GaslkeH, Elizabeth, 94-100, 

111-12, 188 
Gissing, George, 185-93, 194, 

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 

40, 77 

Goldsmith, Oliver, 277-78 
Gorlci, Maxim, 190-91, 298 
Gothic Revival, The, 140 
Green, T. H., 76 

Hard Times, 20, 85, 94, 99- 

104, 126 

Harrison, Frederic, 137 
Hayek, 200 
Hazlitt, William, 31 
Herder, Johann Gottfried von, 

Heroes and Hero-Worship, On f 


Hertford Reformer, 123 
History of England, 21 
History of the Protestant Ref 
ormation, 21 

Hobson, J. A., 150-51, 200 
Homage to Catalonia, 309 
Hopkins, G. M,, 168 
Horace, 140 
Hough, Graham, 144 
How to Read a Page, 269 
How we are Governed, 349 
How we Live, 168 
Huckleberry Finn, 330 
Hulme, T. E., 174, 205-10 
Humboldt, Wilhelm von, 133 
Huxley, Aldous, 174 
Hyperion, 50 

Idea of a Christian Society, 

The, 2,43-47, 253~54 259 
Illusion and Reality, 296-98 
Ion, 40 

Jean Paul (Richter), 77 

Keats, John, 33-52, 180, 183 

Kingsley, Charles, 87, 108-10, 

111, 121-22, 188 
Kirk, Russell, 191 
Knights, L. C., 270 

Lady Chatterley's Lover, 228 
Last Hundred Days of English 

Liberty, 61 
Latter-Day Pamphlets, 84, 90 

Lawrence, D. H., 95, 173, 

213-30, 276, 309 
Leavis, F. R., 53, 100, 144, 

215, 221, 26l, 27O~8l 

Leavis, Q. D., 270 

Lenin, V. L, 302-3 

Letters from England, 24-25 

Liberty (Mil), 61 

Limits of Pure Democracy, 

The, 176-77 
Lingard, John, 21 
Longinus, 140 
Lynd, R. and H., 274 

Macaulay, T. B., 121 

Macbeth, 296 

MacCarthy, Desmond, 215 

Mallock, W. H., 174-78, 205 

Malthus, Thomas, 88 

Man of Property, The, 185-86 

Mannheim, Karl, 256-58 

Man, 294 

Marx, Karl, 22, 79, 140, 283- 


Mary Barton, 94-98, 100, 112 
Mass Civilization and Minority 

Culture, 27071 
Maurice, F. D., 122 
Middletown, 274, 278 
Mill, James, 60 
Mill, John Stuart, 53-76, 101, 

116, 180, 195, 198, 243, 294 

INDEX 377 

Mind in Chains, The, 288 
Montesquieu, Charles, baron 
de, 140 

Moore, Thomas, 39 
Morris, William, 21, 45, 140, 
143, 151, 159-70, 173, 192, 

195-98, 202, 223, 227, 251, 

255, 283, 290-92 

Nether World, The, 186-89, 


New Grub Street, 186-87, 192 
New Republic, The, 174-76 
Newman, J. H., 119-21, 123, 

125-26, 137, 138-39, 182 
News from Nowhere, 167-68 
Nineteen Eighty-Four, 304, 

Noire, 294 
North and South, 94, 98-99, 

100, 104, 107 
Notes towards the Definition of 

Culture, 246-60 
Novalis, 77 
Novel and the People, The, 


Observations on the Effect of 
the Manufacturing System, 

Orage, A., 200 

Orwell, George, 188, 304-13 

Owen, Robert, 22-32, 195 

Paget, R., 294 

Paine, Thomas, 33 

Paradise Lost, 248 

Past and Present, 84, 89-90 

Pater, Walter, 174, 178-81, 

183-85, 261 
Penty, A. J., 200-3 
Pilgrim's Progress, The, 248 
Plato, 40 

Plekhanov, Georgi, 286-88 
Political Economy, 54, 101 
Political Economy of Art, The, 


Political Register, 3 
Politics and Letters, v, 311 

37 8 INDEX 

Practical Criticism, 268 
Preface to Lyrical Ballads, 44, 

Price, Richard, 8 

Principles of Literary Criti 

cism, 261-62, 268 
Prospects of Industrial Civi 

lization, 282 
Pugin, A. C., 141 
Pugin, A. W., 3, 21, 140-43, 

146, 156, 161 
Pygmalion, 194 

Rainbow, The, 228 
Read, Herbert, 210, 267 
Reflections on the French Rev 

olution, 6-13, 21, 127 
Religion and the Rise of Capi 

talism, 231 

Renaissance, The, 179-80 
Renan, Ernest, 133 
Richards, I. A., 180, 261-70, 

272, 274 

Road to Serfdom, The, 200 
Road to Wigan Pier, The, 305, 


Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 40, 

56, 205 
"Rural Rides, 20 

Ruskin, John, 21, 43, 45, 71, 
76, 140-59, 160, 166, 174- 
75, 181, 195, 202, 231, 234, 
239, 251, 253, 256, 283 

Russell, Bertrand, 282 

Sartor Resartus, 84 

St Mator, 228 

Schiller, J. C. F. von, 40, 77 

Science and Poetry, 261 

Scrutiny, 270 

Servile State, The, 200-2 

Shairp, J. C., 137 

Shaw, G. B., 173, 178, 193- 

99, 3<>7 
Sheffield Courant, 123 

Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 24, 33- 

52* 91, 179, 183 
Shooting Niagara, 84, 90, 113, 


Signs of the Times, 77-83 

Smith, Adam, xi, 38 

Smythe, C., 24 

Sons and Lovers, 221 

Sorel, Georges, 209 

Soul of Man under Socialism, 
The, 183 

Southey, Robert, 22-32, 34, 
232, 253 

Speculations, 205-10 

Sphere and Duties of Govern 
ment, The, 132-33 

Stones of Venice, The, 149 

Strachey, Lytton, 143 

Sturt, George (George Bourne), 

Sybil, 88, 94, 104-7 

Tawney, R. H., 231-42, 348 
Thompson, Denys, 270, 276 
Thompson, E. P., 291 
Thomson, George, 296 
Tono Bungay, 185 
True Principles of Pointed or 

Christian Architecture, 141 
Turgeniev, Ivan, 194 
Twain, Mark, 280 

Unclassed, The, 189, 192 
University Education, On the 
Scope and Nature of, 119 


Unto this Last, 157 

Useful Work versus Useless 

Toil, 168 
Utopia, 27 

Vico, Giovanni, 140 
Village, The, 277-78 
Virgin Soil, 194 
Vision of Judgment, 24 
Voice of Civilization, 270 

Warner, R. E., 288-89 
Way of all Flesh, The, 185 
Wealth of Nations, The, xi 
Webb, Sidney, 195-99 
Wells, H. G., 178 
West, Alick, 290-95 

INBEX 379 

Wheelwright's Shop, The, 276 Wordsworth, William, 33-52, 
Whistler, James, 178-79, 181- 179, 266-67 

83 Workers in the Dawn, 189, 
Wilde, Oscar, 173, 178-79, 192 

183-85 Writers and Leviathan, 311 
Wilenski, R., 145 

Women in Love, 228 Young, E., 40-42, 48 


Advertising, 247, 274-76, 278, 
280, 324-26, 332 

'Aesthete*, xiv, 48, 146-47, 

'Aesthetics', xiv, 48, 144-49, 

178-85, 192, 261, 270 
'Aliens", 131, 165 
'Aristocracy of talent', 132, 

178, 195 
'Art', xifi-xiv, 33-5*, 73, 140- 

70, 178-85, 255, 264-67, 

290-99, 304, 315 
'Art for art's sake', 165-66, 178 
'Artisan', xiv, 47 
'Artist', xui-xiv, 33-52, 90-91, 

145-46, 147-48, 218, 264- 

68, 293, 297 
'Artistic , xiv, 48 
Ashton, Thomas, 97 
'Atomistic', xv, 150, 204, 257, 

Atdee, Clement R., 249 

Basic English, 269 

'Bounder, 101 

'Bourgeois', 301-3, 339, 343- 

45, 350 

'Bureaucracy*, xv, 201, 204 
'Business', xv, 62, 64 

Camden Society, 146 
'Capitalism', xv, 22, 151, 167, 

194-206, 233, 259, 288-89, 


'Captains of Industry', 90 
'Cash-nexus', 83, 90, 99, 151, 


Chadwick, Edwin, 101 
Chapman and Hal, 96 
Chartism, 84-88, 244 
Christian Socialism, 24, 108- 

'Civilization', 55-56, 66-68, 

120, 141, 160, 229-30, 272 
'Class', xiii, 116, 121-22, 126- 

27, 130-36, 157-58, 236* 

241, 249-60, 303, 3<>5-@> 

312, 338-51 
'Class conflict', xiii 
'Class consciousness', xiii 
'Class legislation', xiii 
'Class prejudice', xiii 
'Class war', xiii 
'Classicism', 42, 205-10 
'Glens/ , 69-71, 92, 158, 256, 


'Clerk', 191 
Clifford, W. K., 174 
'Collectivism', xv, 150, 2002 
Combination Laws, 18 
'Commercialism', xv, 163, 245- 

47, 265, 330 
'Common', xv 
Communication, 268, 269, 


Communism, xv, 302-3, 310 
'Community', 204, 220, 227, 

310, 315, 33^-58 
'Condition-of-England ques 
tion', 85 
Conservatism, 3, 104, 150, 

177, &43, ^59, ^82 


Coventry, 15 

'Craftsman', xiv, 47 

'Cranks', xv, 95, 307 

'Creative', 48 

Cromwell, Oliver, 84 

'Cultivated*, 39, $7, 120, 240 

'Cultivation', 67-69, 119, 120, 
138, 162 

'Culture*, xiv-xvii, 12, 27, 32, 
37-39, 4^-47, 64-76, 89, 
92-93, 120-39, 141? M9, 
154, 162-63, 174-75, 179, 

183, 193, 202, 206-8, 236- 
42, 243, 247-60, 264, 271- 
72, 288-91, 301, 304, 314- 

16, 336-58 

'Decadent', 300 

'Democracy, xii, 14, 61, .86- 
87, 109-10, 116, 129, 151, 

157, 176-78, 194-99, 2Q3- 
6, 209, 224, 246, 275, 304, 
315-18, 323-24, 330, 334, 
349, 352 

'Democrat', xii 
Dent, 3EL, 249 
'Design*, 155-56 
'Distributivism', 200-2 
'Doctrinaire', xv 
'Dominative', 255, 332-33, 

'Earnest', xv, 222 
'Education', xv 

(See also Popular Educa 

'filite', 249-58 
Emigration, 88, 98, 103, 109 
Enclosure Acts, 12 
'Equalitarian', xv 
Equality, 150, 157, 169, 177- 

78, 198, 209, 225-26, 236- 

38 % 257, 304-7, 336-38 
'Exile', 189-90, 220, 226-28, 


'Fabian', 71, 101, 168, 193-99, 
203, 255 

Fane, Violet, 174 


Fascism, 86, 198, 209, 213 
'Freedom*, 127-28 
French Revolution, 4, 6, 11, 
13, 82, 86, 206 

Trench Revolution, Our', xii, 

'Genius', xiv, 48, 90-91 
'Getting-on', xv, 156 
'Good English', 342 
'GotMc', 141, 143, 

167, 250 

'Gradgrind', 85, 100-1, 102 
'Guild', 158, 201-4 
Guild of Saint George, 158, 

Guild Socialism, 200-4, 306 

'Handmade', xv 
Haydon, Benjamin R., 43 
Hennell, Sara, 144 
'Highbrow', xv, 307 
'Higher classes', xiii 
'Humanist', 205-10 
'Humanitarian*, xv, 194 

'Idealist', xv 

Idealist philosophy, 40-42, 53, 

76, 291, 298 
Ideology', xv 
'IHth', 153, 235 
'Imitation', 40-42, 146 
'Industrial', xii 
Industrial capitalism, 300 
'Industrial Revolution', xi, xii, 

3, 13, 28, 35, 61, 100, 123, 

136, 197, 339 
Industrialism, xii, 4, 12, 41, 

78, 84, 95, 100-3, 121, 129, 

152-57, 214-21, 228-30, 

232-35, 245-46, 267, 299, 

306, 315-16, 344 
'Industrious', xi-xii 
Industry', xi, 127, 130, 193, 

203, 238, 314-16, 355 
Infant schools, 30-31 
'Intellectual', xv 
'Isms', xv, 224 



Jacobinism, xii, 129-30 
Jowett, Benjamin, 174 

Labour Party, 168, 307 
'Ladder, educational*, 350-51 
'Laissez-faire*, 27, 61-62, 85- 

88, 123-24, 128, 150-51, 

168, 348 

Language, origins of, 294-95 
LasM, Harold J., 249 
Liberalism, xv, 12, 55, 123- 

24, 127, 133, 135, 151, 160, 

195, 233-34, ^43, 246, 259- 

60, 348 

Local newspapers, 331 
'Lower classes', xiii 
'Lower middle class*, xiii, 326 
'Lower orders*, xiii 
Luddites, 31 

'Machinery*, 79, 113-14, 129, 

135, 169, 179, 197, 204, 245 
'Market, literary*, 35-39, 51, 

90-93, 186-87, 324-30 
Marxism, 151, 195, 261, 280, 

282, 283-303, 307, 313 
'Mass civilization", 275, 316 
'Mass conraumcalioif* 315-36 
'Mass democracy*, 315-19 
'Masses', xv, 90, no, 152, 

177-78, 189, 217-18, 241, 

246-47, 275, 281, 303, 313, 

316-35, 355 
'Mechanical', 41, 77-80, 81, 

83, 124, 125, 149. 160, 209, 

215, 222, 226, 281 
'Mechanism', 78-81, 84, 197, 


'Mediaeval 9 , xv 
'Medlaevalism*, xv, 20-21, 

26, 89, 141-42, 151, 159, 

167, 181, 200-6, 250, 277 
'Middle classes*, xiii, 35, 60, 87, 

97, 112, 126, 130-33, 151, 

160, 164, 209, 218, 229, 

306, 325, 33^-51 
'Middling classes", xffi 
'Mind*, 73 
'Minority Culture', 165, 240- 

42, 251, 270-74, 


'Mob', xv, 246, 316-18, 322 
'Mob-rule*, xii 
'Montesinos*, 22 
'More, Sir Thomas*, 25 
Multiple transmission, 321-36 

National Church, 69-70, 92, 


'Negative capability*, 4g-5o 
'Negative identification*, 189- 

91, 192, 290 
New Harmony, 227 
New Lanark, 30-31 

'Operative*, xv, 62, 152 
'Organic', 41, 75, 124, 140, 

149, 151, 201, 227, 257, 

276, a8i-8a 
'Organic society*, 12, 13, 40- 

41, 149-51, ^7^-79, 315 
'Original', 40-41, 48 
'Outsider*, 353 
Oxford culture, 163 

Panopticon, 142 

Pantisocracy, 227 

Patronage, literary, 35-36 

'Perfection', riv, 11, 46, 67-69, 
87, 119-21, 124-39, 145- 
46, 147, 150, 152, 206-7, 
241, 251 

Peterloo, 31, 34 

'Philistine*, 20, 125, 130, 184 

'Popular culture*, 274, 278, 

324-32, 340-41 
Popular Education, 17, 20, 27, 

32, 71, 88-89, 102, 114, 

121-23, 129, 15, 158, 177, 

217, 247, 257, 279-81, 321, 

325-28, 350-51 
'Popular Press*, 187, 280, 324- 


'Pretentious*, xv 
'Primitivism*, xv 
'Production*, 127, 130, 152, 

224, 235 


'Progress', xv, 126, 130, 205- 

9, 278 
'Proletariat', xv, 3, 191, 201, 

312-13, 339 
'Public', 37-39, 3*.8> 33^, 334 

Radicalism, 14, 60, 83, 111- 

12, 1 16, 189, 243 
Rananim, 227 
Hank*, xiii 
'Hank-and-file', xv 
'Rationalism', xv 
Reform Bill 60-61, 86, 105 
'Reformer', xv 
'Reformism', xv 
'Remnant', 131-32, 195 
Renaissance, 42, 205 
'Revolutionary 1 , xv 
Romanticism, xv, 33-5^, 9- 

91, 145-46, 178, 183, 195, 

205-10, 218-19, 224, 261, 


'Salary', xv 

'Science', xv, 137, 143, 161, 

193, 262, 272, 296 
'Scientist', xv 
'Service', 224, 34S-5Q 
Silbree, J., no 
Socialism, xv, 143, 150, 160 

70, 176-78, 183-85, 192, 

1Q3-99, 202-6, 224, 225, 
234, 283, 290, 2Q5, 302-3, 
306, 307, 308, 309-11 

'Socialist realism', 298, 302 
'Solidarity*, xv, 344-55 
'Speculator*, xv 
Spencer, Herbert, 174 
'Spirit of the nation*, 12 
'State', 10-11, 129-34, 200-4, 


'Steam-engine intellects', 101 
'Stock notions', 124-28, 135 
'Stock responses', 265 
'Strike', xv 

'Subtopia 7 , 127 
'Suburban', xv, 228, 277 
'Superstructure', 284-86 
'Swinish multitude", 347 

'Taste', 44-45, *37> 
'Totalitarian', 302, 310 
'Trade', 101 
Trade unionism, 18, 97, 103, 

106, 169-70, 198, 303, 306, 


'Tradition', 207 
Truck system, 104 

'Unnatural', 16 

'Upper classes', xiii 
'Upper middle classes', xiii 
Utilitarianism, 22, 53-76, 89, 

101-4, isi, 123, 160, 195, 

224, 269, 294 

Vagrant*, 220, 309-12, 330 

'Wealth', 125-26, 130, 152-55 
*Whig', 105, 160, 168 
Wilcox, E. W., 268 
Windham, William, 3 
'Working class culture", 339- 

'Working class violence', 96 

98, 107, 1 12-13, 122, 134- 

'Working classes', xiii, 14-20, 

32, 85, 87, 94-99 100? 103- 

4, 106, 10811, 112, 114- 

15, 121-22, 130, 134-36, 

159, 162, 189-95, 204, 209, 
217-21, ^90, 303, 312-13, 
326, 339-51 

Working Men's Colleges, 121- 

Toung England', 24, 104-7 

It is the thesis of this remarkable book that the concept of 
"culture" as we know it today first came into English thought 
during the Industrial Revolution, and that it developed in 
direct relationship to society in general. Mr. Williams traces 
its growth through Burke, Cobbett, the Romantic poets, Mill, 
Carlyle, Arnold; the "industrial novels" of Mrs. Gaskell, 
Dickens, Kingsley, and others; Ruskin, William Morris, 
Shaw, Lawrence, Tawney, and the Marxist critics. 

"The value of [the] book is not only that it traces for us the 
history of the idea [of culture] but that it also forces us at 
every point to try to define it for ourselves ... A model of 
plain speaking, fairness and concentrated history-telling." 
Richard Chase in Partisan Review 

". . . worth a library of literary and political tracts in that it 
digs into the ideological layers that envelop modern politics. 
. . . Exactly to the point of contemporary discussions of 
value." Harold Rosenberg in The Nation 

". . . important, often brilliant, and a healthy change from 
the tiresome fear of our expanding society that is now so 
common among intellectuals." Alfred Kazin in The Reporter 

i " I